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L E T T E I 










L E T^ljII/ 

FROM ::; 

SPAIN 



By '- 
KAREL 6APEK 

Traaslated by PAUL SELVER 



G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

NEW YORK 
1932 



PRINTED IK GREAT BRITAIN 



PAGE 

NORD AND SUD EXPRESS ...... 7 

D. R., BELGIQUE, FRANCE 13 

CASTILLA LA VIEJA 17 

PUERTA DEL SOL 21 

TOLEDO 27 

POSADA DE LA SANGRE 34 

VELAZQUEZ o LA GRANDEZA 38 

EL GRECO o LA DEVOCION 42 

GOYA o EL REVERSO 46 

Y LOS OTROS . 51 

ANDALUCtA 5*> 

CALLES SEVILLANAS 59 

REJAS y PATIOS 65 

GIRALDA 72 

ALCAZAR 79 

JARDINES 85 

MANTILLAS 90 

TRIANA 9 8 

CORRIDA 103 

LIDIA ORDINARIA 117 



PAGE 

FLAMENCOS 133 

BODEGA 148 

CARABELA 152 

PALMAS Y NARANJOS 157 

TlBIDABO 164 

SARDANA 169 

PELOTA ........ 173 

MONTSERRAT l8o 

VUELTA l86 



Nord and Sud Express 




IN recent times what are known as international 
expresses have become extremely important 
accessories to travel, partly on practical grounds, 
which are of minor interest to us, and partly for 
poetical reasons. Time after time in modern 
poetry the Transcontinental Express dashes past 
you, and a mysterious porter calls out the names 
of stations : Paris, Moscow, Honolulu, Cairo ; 
the Sleeping Cars dynamically scan the rhythm 
of Speed, and the Pullman, as it whirls by, 
suggests all the magic of distant places, for you 
must know that nothing less than first-class travel 
accommodation will satisfy the fine frenzy of the 

7 



poet. My poetical friends, allow me to tell you 
the plain truth about Pullmans and Sleeping 
Cars : if you must know, they look infinitely more 
enticing from outside, when they flash past some 
sleepy little station, than from within. It is true 
that they make up for this by their tremendous 
speed, tmt it is no less true that all the same you 
are boxed up in them for fourteen or even twenty- 
three blessed hours at a stretch, and as a rule 




that's enough to^ bore you -stiff. A local train 
from Prague to Repy jogs along at a less impres- 
sive speed, but at least you know that in half an 
hour you'll be able to get out and pursue some 
fresh adventure. A man in a Pullman car doesn't 
dash along at sixty miles an hour ; he just sits 
and yawns ; if the face on the right annoys him, 
he goes and sits down on the other side. The 
only redeeming feature of it is that he has a com- 
fortable seat. Sometimes he gazes listlessly out 

8 



NORD AND SUD EXPRESS 

of the Window ; a small station whisks past, and 
he can't read the name of it ; a township flits by 
and he can't get put there ; he'll never stroll 
along that road bordered with plane-trees, he'll 
never dawdle on that bridge and spit in the 
river in fact he won't even find out what the 
river is called. Confound it all, thinks -the 
man in the Pullman, where - are we? What, 
only Bordeaux ? Good Lord, this is a slow 
business ! 

Wherefore, if you want to have a trip with at 
least something exotic about it, get into a local 
train which puffs its way along from one wayside 
station, to another. Press your nose against the 
window-pane, so as not to miss anything : here 
a soldier with a blue uniform gets in, hpre a child 
waves its hand at you ; a French peasant in a 
black cowl lets you have a swill at his wine, a 
young mother gives her baby a breast as pale as 
moonlight, the country yokels hold forth noisily 
and smoke their shag, a snuff-stained priest says 
his breviary ; the land unwinds, station after 
station, like the beads on a rosary. And then 
evening comes, when the jaded passengers doze 
like emigrants under the flickering lights. At 
that moment the lustrous International Express 
hurtles past on the other track with its load of 
weary boredom, with its Sleeping Cars and 
Dining Cars. 

What's that, only Dax ? Heavens above, what 
a tiresome journey ! 

9 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 
Not long ago I read a eulogy of the Suit-case ; 
of course, not the common or garden suit-case, 
but the International Suit-case, plastered over 
with hotel labels from Constantinople and Lisbon, 
Tetuan and Riga, St. Moritz and Sofia ; the suit- 
case which is the pride of its owner, whose travels 
it records. I will reveal a dreadful secret to you : 
those labels are sold in travel agencies. For a 
moderate fee your suit-case will be labelled Cairo, 
Flushing, Bucharest, Palermo, Athens and Ostend. 




With this revelation, I hope, I have inflicted a 
mortal wound in the International Suit-case. 

It is possible that another man in my place, 
travelling all those thousands of miles, would meet 
with something different in the way of adven- 
tures ; perhaps he could come across the Inter- 
national Venus or the Madonna of the Sleeping 
Cars. Nothing of that sort happened to me ; 
there was only a collision, but I really couldn't 
help that. In some wayside station our express 
dashed into a goods train ; the contest was an 



10 



NORD AND SUD EXPRESS 

unequal one and the result of it was much the 
same as if Mr. Chesterton had sat on somebody's 
top-hat. The goods train fared very badly, while 
on our side there were only five wounded ; it was 
a thorough victory. When, in such a contin- 
gency, a passenger has wriggled out from under- 
neath a suit-case which has fallen on his head, he 
first of alt rushes off to see what has happened ; 
not until he has satisfied his curiosity does he 
begin to fumble about to discover whether he has 
any bones broken. When he has made sure that, 
roughly speaking, he is sound in wind and limb, 
he derives a certain amount of technical pleasure 
in observing how the two engines have got 
rammed together and what a thorough mess we. 
have made of the goods train ; well, it oughtn't 
to have interfered with us. Only the injured 
passengers are pale and rather disgruntled, as if 
a personal and unjust humiliation has been 
inflicted upon them. Then the authorities poke 
their noses into it and we go off to drink to our 
victory in the remnants of the dining-car. For 
the rest of the journey they leave us a free passage, 
we have evidently put the fear of God into them. 
Another and a more complicated adventure is 
how to get into the upper berth in a sleeping-car, 
especially when someone is already asleep in the 
lower one. It is somewhat disconcerting to 
trample on the head and abdomen of a person 
whose nationality and character are alike unknown 
to you. There are various wearisome methods of 



ii 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

getting on top : by such physical jerks as the up- 
ward stretch, with or without a preliminary jump-, 





by vaulting, by straddling, by fair means or foul. 
Once you are up there, make sure not to get 
thirsty or anything of that sort which would 
involve climbing down ; surrender yourself into 
the hands of God, and try to sleep like a corpse 
in a coffin, while unknown and strange regions 
are whizzing past outside, and at home poets are 
writing verses about International Expresses. 






00 



D. R. 9 Belgique, France 

IF I were wealthy enough, and if such things 
were for sale in the open market, I should 
certainly start making a collection of countries. 
I have discovered that frontiers are by no means 
to be despised, although I am not fond of customs 






ci 

c> 



T* p*ROViNZ 

Cr 

officers, and passport inspections bore me. I 
nevertheless notice with a delight which is always 
fresh that when I cross the frontiers from one 
country to another, I penetrate into a new world, 
with different houses and a different language, 
different policemen, a different colour of the soil 
and different scenery. A blue railway-guard is. 
replaced by a green one who, in his turn, a few 
hours later, will make way for a brown one. 
Really, it's just like the Arabian Nights. Czech 
apple-trees are followed by the fir-trees of Bran- 

X 3 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

denburg on white stretches of sand, a windmill 

waves its arms as if it were running away, the 
country-side is neatly levelled out and produces 
chiefly advertisements of cigarettes and margarine. 
Then rocks covered with ivy, hills which have 
been hollowed out by mining operations^ deep 
green river-basins, the forges and foundries of 
steel- works, the iron ribs of pithead towers, slag- 
heaps which look like recently extinguished vol- 




CMA'RLE ROi 

canoes, a medley of rustic scenery and heavy 
industry, a concerto in which the shawm and the 
carillon accompany the factory siren": Verhaeren 
in his entirety, Les heures claires as well as Les 
miles tentaculaires. The whole of Flanders as the 
old poet portrayed it : the country which has not 
found enough room for its treasures and keeps 
them all in one pocket ; winsome Belgium ; a 
mother with her baby in her arms, a young soldier 
watering a horse, an inn at the bottom of a hill, 
the chimney-stacks and formidable towers of 
industry, a Gothic church and an iron-foundry, 

14 



D. R t , BELGIQUE^ FRANCE 

some cows among the mine-shafts all these 
things neatly arranged like objects in an old- 
fashioned shop heaven alone knows how room 
has been found for them. 

Ah, but now there is more elbow-room. This 
is France, the country of alders and poplars, 
poplars and plane-trees, plane-trees and vine- 
yards. Silvery green, yes, a green silveriness is 
the colour of it ; pink bricks and blue slates ; a 




OKlEANAfS 



slight veil of mist, more light than colour, Corot. 
Not a mortal soul in the fields ; perhaps they are 
pressing the grape-crops, the gladsome wine of 
Touraine, the gladsome wine of Anjou ; Balzac's 
goodly wine and the wine of Monsieur le Comte 
de la Fere. Garfon, une demi-bouteille and here's 
to you, turrets of the valley of the Loire ! Black- 
haired women dressed in black. What, only Bor- 
deaux ? Resinous fragrances are wafted on the 
night air; here are the Landes, the region of 
pine-trees. Then a different fragrance, keen and 
exhilarating : the sea. 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

Hendaye, all change ! An official with the face 
of a young Caligula in a shiny three-cornered hat 
scrawls a magic sign on the luggage, and with a 
lordly gesture ushers us on to the platform. Well, 
so far, so good : I am in Spain. 

Corner ero, una media dejerez. So far, so good. 
A devilish fine Spanish girl, her fingers dyed with 
henna. Now then, keep away from there. All 
the same, I wish I could take that official, as a 
stuffed specimen, home with me ! 



Castilla la Vieja 

YES, I have been in Spain ; I can swear most 
solemnly to that, and I have a number of 
witnesses to prove it, e.g. the hotel-labels on my 
suit-case. And yet as far as I am concerned, the 
land of Spain is shrouded with an impenetrable 
mystery, for the sound reason that I entered it 
and left it again at dead of night ; it was just as 
if we had been taken blindfold across the River 
Acheron or through the Mountains of Dreams. 
I tried to distinguish something in the darkness 
outside ; I saw something that looked like a 
cluster of black patches on the bare hill-sides ; 
perhaps they were rocks or trees, but they might 
also have been large animals. The mountains 
were severe and strange of aspect ; I decided that 
I could get up early to have a look at them at day- 
break, I did get up early ; according to the map 
and the time-table we ought to have been some- 
where in the mountains, but all I saw below the 
red streak of daybreak was a brown, bare and 
frowning expanse ; it looked like the sea or a 
mirage. I thought I must be feverish, for I had 
never seen a plain like that before ; so I went to 
sleep again, and when I woke up once more and 
looked out of the window, I discovered that I was 

17 B 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

not feverish, but that I was in a different land 
and that land was Africa. 

I do not know how to put It ; there Is a green 
tint here, but it is different from ours ; It Is dim 
and drab. There Is a brown tint, but It is dif- 
ferent from ours ; it Is not the brown tint of 
ploughed earth, but the brown tint of stony land 
and powdered lignite. There are red rocks here, 
but there Is something stagy about their redness. 




CASTIILA LA VIEJA 



And there are mountains too, which are fashioned, 
not of rock, but of deep clay and boulders. 
These boulders do not sprout out of the soil ; 
they look as if they had been showered down on 
to it. The mountains are called Sierra de Guad- 
arama ; God, who created them, must be very 
mighty, or how else could He have made so many 
stones ? Among the boulders grow dark oaks and 
besides them scarcely anything but wild thyme 
and thorns. It Is bare and large, as parched as 
a desert, as mysterious as Sinai ; I do not quite 

18 



CASTILLA LA VIEJA 

know how to express my meaning, but it is another 
continent, it Is not Europe. It is sterner and 
fiercer than Europe ; It is older than Europe. It 
is not a mournful wilderness ; it is solemn and 
strange, rough and majestic. People dressed in 
black, black goats, black pigs against a background 
of torrid russet. A harsh existence, scorched to 
blackness among the heated stones. 
Here, and there the bare boulders are streams, 




the bare stones form a plain and the bare stone 

walls a Castillian pueblo. An angular tower and 
a wall around ; It is more of a stronghold than 
a village. It Is welded together with the stony 
soil, just as old castles are welded together with 
the rock on which they stand. The huts are 
huddled one against the other, as if they were 
awaiting an attack. This then Is a Spanish 
village. The human dwellings blend with the 
stony earth. 
And in the brown, stony slope there is a miraoi- 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

lous sight : dark green gar dens , avenues of dark 
cypresses ? a dense and gloomy park ; a huge, 
stark and lordly cube with four bristling turrets ; 




a monumental solitude, a hermitage with a thou- 
sand haughty windows : El Escorial. The cloister 
of the Spanish kings. A castle of sorrow and 
pride above the parched country-side, where meek 
asses graze. 



Puerto, del Sol 

OH yes, I know that here I ought to discuss 
many other matters, such as the history of 
Madrid, the view on the Manzanares, the gardens 
in Buen Retiro, the royal palace with the guards- 
men in red and the shouting bevy of pretty chil- 
dren in the courtyard, a whole lot of churches and 
museums and the other main sights. If it interests 
you, please read it up elsewhere ; all I offer you is 
Puerta del Sol, and just as a special favour to you, I 
will add Calle de Alcala and Calle Mayor, together 
with the tepid evenings and all the people of Madrid* 
There are sacred places in the world ; they are 
the most beautiful streets in the world, the beauty 
of which is as irrational and mysterious as a myth, 
There is the Cannebiere in Marseilles ; there is 
the Rambla in Barcelona ; there is the Alcala in 
Madrid. If you were to detach them from their 
surroundings, boiling them down and depriving 
them of their life and all their small local odours, 
and then put them elsewhere, you would not 
notice anything remarkable about them ; why, 
you would say, this is quite a nice wide street, but 
what else is there ? What else, O ye of little 
faith ? Don't you see that this square is sacred, 
nay more, that the world-renowned Puerta del 



LETTERS PROM SPAIN 

Sol, the Gate of the Sun, is the centre of the world 
and the navel of Madrid ? Don't you see how 
this priest, more dignified and stately than any 
other priest in the world, is wending his way along, 
with his cloak tucked up beneath his arm like a 
soldier with a rolled great-coat. And here, ^this 
Spanish hidalgo, disguised as a gendarme in a 




shiny hat dented at the back ; another caballero, 
probably a marquis or something of that sort, 
with an aquiline nose and the voice of a crusader 
leading his warriors, is shouting El Soool or the 
name of some other newspaper ; and here again 
is a conquistador, leaning on a broom, and with 
sculptural gestures performing an allegory of some 
kind, perhaps the Cleansing of the City. But 



22 



PUERTA DEL SOL 

here are some pleasant people : lean and sun- 
burnt peasants from the Sierras, bringing veget- 
ables and melons with them on the backs of 
donkeys ; enough red, blue and green uniforms 
to mount a dozen decorative ballets ; limpiabotas 

with their small stands 

Wait a bit : this is a chapter all to itself and 
headed : boot-cleaning. The cleaning of boots 
is a national Spanish trade ; or in exacter terms, 
the cleaning of boots is a national Spanish dance 




or ceremony. In other parts of the world, Naples, 
for instance, a bootblack will hurl himself upon 
your footwear furiously, and will start brushing 
it as if he were conducting the experiment in 
physics, by which heat or electricity is produced 
as the result of friction. Spanish boot-cleaning 
is a dance, which, like the Siamese dances, is per- 
formed only with the hands. The dancer kneels 
down before you as a sign that this performance 
is being held in honour of Your Lordship ; with 
an elegant movement he turns up your trousers, 
with a graceful pass he smears the respective foot- 
as 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

wear with a fragrant salve or something of that 
sort, whereupon he indulges in a frenzied set of 
dancing movements ; he flings the brush up- 
wards, seizes it again, slaps it across from one 
hand to the other, allowing it to touch your boots 
in a respectful and flattering manner. The mean- 
ing of this dance is clear : it expresses respect ; 
you are a magnificent grandee, receiving the cere- 
monious homage of a knightly page. Accord- 




ingly, a magnificent and agreeable warmth, mount- 
ing from the feet, spreads inside you ; which is 
certainly worth half a peseta. 

Oiga, camerero, una capita de Fundador. You 
know, caballeroS) this has quite taken my fancy : 
all this crowd, this noise, which is not an uproar, 
the gay courtesy, the charm ; all of us are cavaliers, 
tramp and custodian of the law, I and the crossing- 
sweeper, we are all of noble birth, wherefore long 
live southern equality ! Madrilenas, you hand- 
some long-nosed women in black mantillas with 

24 



PUERTA DEL SOL 




LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

your dark optics, with what dignity do you bear 
yourselves in your half-concealment ; senoritas 
with dark-eyed mamas, mamas and their babies 
with small round pates, like dolls ; fathers who are 
not ashamed of their love for their children, old 
women with rosaries, good-humoured fellows 
with the faces of brigands, beggars, gentlemen 
with gold teeth, pedlars, caballeros one and all ; 
a bright and bustling crowd which chats and 
strolls in a good-tempered allegro. 

But the evening comes, the air is steeped In 
warmth and has a keen savour ; the whole of 
Madrid, if It has legs at all, Is walking, thronging 
and surging from Calle Mayor as far as Calle 
de Alcala ; caballeros in uniforms, caballeros In 
plain clothes, in sombreros and caps, girls of all 
denominations, viz. madamiselas, doncellas and 
muchachas, senoritas and mozas and chulas, 
madamas and sefioras, duefias, duenazas and 
dueiiisimas, hijas, chicas, chiquitas and chiquir- 
riticas with dark eyes behind the dark mantilla, 
with red lips, red finger-nails and dark side- 
glances, all promenading, a festival of workaday, 
a processional demonstration of amorous and 
flirtatious charm, a pleasaunce of eyes, an avenue 
of endless erotic enchantment. 

Cannebiere, Rambla, Alcala : the most delight- 
ful streets in the world ; streets which overflow 
with life, like a goblet with wine. 



Toledo 

YOU have here a brown, warm plain, studded 
with villages, donkeys, olives and dome- 
shaped walls ; from this plain, without any warn- 
ing, a great granite rock thrusts itself, and all the 
objects on it are squeezed together, one on top 
of the other ; and below in the chasm of brown 
rocks flows the brown Tajo. 

As regards Toledo itself, I really don't know 
whether to begin with the ancient Romans or the 
Moors or the Catholic Kings. But as Toledo is 
a mediaeval town, I will begin with what a 
mediaeval town undoubtedly begins with, viz. 
the gates. For instance, Toledo has a gate known 
as Bisagra nueva, rather in the style of Terezin, 
with a Habsburg double eagle which is distinctly 
above life-size ; it looks as if it led to our Terezin 
or Josefov, but contrary to all expectation it 
debouches into a quarter which is called Arrabal 
and looks it, too. Whereupon you are in front 
of another gate which is called the Gate of the 
Sun, and looks as if you had been set down in 
Bagdad, but instead of that the Moorish portal 
leads into the streets of the most Catholic of 
towns, where every third building is a church 
with a bloodstained Jesus and an ecstatic retable 

27 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

of Greco. Also you wander through winding 
Arab by-streets , gaze through gratings into 
Moorish courtyards which are called patios and 
are Inlaid with Toledan majolica, you keep clear 
of donkeys laden with wine or oil, you peep at 
the beautiful harem-gratings of the windows and 
altogether you trudge along as if in a dream. As 
if in a dream. You might come to a standstill at 
every seventh step ; here is a Visigoth pillar and 
there a Mozareb wall ; here a miraculous Virgin 
Mary, who finds a wife or a husband for all, and 




there a Mudejar minaret and renaissance palace 
like a fortress, and Gothic windows, and a fagade 
encrusted with gold and gems in the estilo plater- 
esco, and a mosque, and a street so narrow that 
a donkey can only get through if he squeezes 
his ears back ; glimpses of shady majolica court- 
yards where fountains gurgle amid flower-pots ; 
glimpses of serried streets between bare walls and 
barred windows ; glimpses of the sky ; glimpses 
of churches frantically decorated with everything 
which can be carved, hewn, moulded, damas- 
cened, hammered, painted, embroidered, tricked 

28 



TOLEDO ' , 

out with filigree, gilded and set with precious 
stones. Thus you can stop at every step, as in 
a museum ; or you can walk along as in a dream, 
for all this, the products of a thousand years, 
marked with the flaming script of Allah, the cross 
of Christ, the gold of the Incas, the life of diverse 




periods, gods, civilizations, and races, is, after all, 
a fantastically uniform thing ; so many periods 
and civilizations enter the hard clutch of the 
Toledan rock. And then, in one of the narrowest 
streets, from the barred window of a human cage 
a bird's-eye view of Toledo is revealed to you : 
one single surge of flat roofs beneath the blue 

29 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

sky : an Arab town, glistening In the brown rocks , 
gardens on the roofs, and delightful, languorous 
patios with an intimate and comely life of their 
own. 

But if I were to take you by the hand and show 
you over everything that was revealed to me in 
Toledo, I suppose I should first lose my way in 
those winding poverty-stricken streets. Not that 
I should regret that, for there too we should have 
to keep clear of the donkeys, pattering over the 
cobbles with their nimble hoofs, we should see 
the open patios and the majolica staircases and 
moreover we should encounter people. Perhaps 
here I should find that Mudejar chapel, white and 
chilly, with its fine horse-shoe arches ; a little 
further on is a rock which falls sheer into the Tajo, 
and opens out a magnificent and austere vista ; 
and the synagogue del Transito, bestrewn with 
fragile and curiously refined Moorish ornamenta- 
tion. And churches : thus, the one with Greco's 
" Burial of the Count Orgaz, 35 or the one with 
that magnificent Moorish cloister, just like a 
dream. And the hospitals with palatial court- 
yards. There is one of them in front of the gate, 
and in it there are poor nuns with huge wing- 
shaped headgear and a crowd of orphans holding 
hands, like a long snake, as they trudge along to 
church singing " Antonino " or " Santo niiio " or 
something of that sort ; and for their use there 
is an old dispensary with beautifully enamelled 
pots and flagons labelled : " Divinus Quercus ' 3 

3 



TOLEDO 

or " Caerusa," " Sagapan " or " Spica Celtic/ 5 
remedies that have stood the test of time. 
Now concerning the cathedral, I am not sure 
whether I was there or not ; for as just in front 
of it I sampled the Toledan wine, wine from the 
Vega plain, a drop of wine so liquid that it flows 
down the throat all by itself, and a wine as thick 
as a curative oil, I am not prepared to swear that 
I did not dream about it or muddled it up some- 




how. There was too much of it ; I know that 
there were exquisite miniatures and fantastic 
ciboria, gratings which reached to the skies, 
carved retables with a thousand statues, jasper 
balustrades, canonical chairs carved from above, 
from below, from the middle and from the back, 
pictures by Greco, organs rumbling in some place 
unknown, prebendaries as stout and desiccated as 
stockfish, chapels inlaid with marble, painted 
chapels, black chapels, golden chapels, Turkish 

3* 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

banners, canopies, angels, tapers and vestments, 

impassioned Gothic and 
impassioned Baroque, 
plateresque altars and 
a churriguesque Trans- 
parency absurdly bulg- 
ing beneath a dark, 
lofty, vaulted dome, a 
medley of senseless and 
amazing things , of glow- 
ing lights and awe-in- 
spiring darkness well, 
perhaps I only dreamt 
about it ; perhaps it was 
only a dreadful, con- 
fused dream in the 
wicker chair of the 
church, perhaps it is 
not even possible for 
any religion to need all 
these things. 

So, caballero, go for 
a stroll in the streets 
of Toledo to clear your 
head of this gluttonous 
wallowing in works of 
art. You, shapely win- 
dows, small Gothic 
arches, Gothic and 
Moorish ajimez ; you, 

hammered rejas, houses with battlements, patios 

3 2 




TOLEDO 

with children and palm trees, tiny courtyards 
inlaid with azulejos, streets of Moors, Jews and 
Christians, where it is a joy to loiter in the 
shadow, caravans of donkeys in you, I say, 
and in many, many tiny details there is just as 
much history as in any cathedral, the best museum 
is the street of living people. I had almost said 
that here you imagine yourself straying into 
another age, but that is not true. The truth is 
stranger ; there is no other age ; what was, is. 
And if this caballero were begirded with a sword, 
and that priest yonder were to expound the 
scriptures of Allah, and that girl were the Jewess 
of Toledo, it would not strike you as being a whit 
more curious and remote than the walls of the 
Toledan streets. If I were to enter another age 
it would not be another age ; it would be only 
a bewilderingly fine and high adventure. Like 
Toledo. Like the Spanish land. 



33 



Posada de la Sangre 

THE Tavern at the sign of the Blood. It 
was here that Don Miguel de Cervantes 
Saavedra lived , drank, ran into debt and wrote 
his " Exemplary Tales." In Seville there is 
another inn, where he also drank and wrote, and 
a prison where he served a sentence for debt ; 
to-day, however, this prison is a tavern. On the 
basis of my own investigations I can prove to all 
and sundry that, while he drank Manzanilla and 
crunched langostinos with it in Seville, he treated 
himself to Toledan wine in Toledo and did justice 
to the chorizo with paprika and the jamon Serrano 
or black raw ham and other things which accom- 
panied it, and which promote thirst, talent and 
eloquence. Until this very day Toledan wine is 
drunk from flagons and chorizo is munched in 
the Posada de la Sangre, while in the yard the 
caballeros unharness the donkeys and bandy jokes 
with the girls, just as they used to do at the time 
of Don Miguel. Which only shows the genius 
of Cervantes is unfading. 

But while we are in the tavern, oiga, viajero ; 
you must eat and drink your way through distant 
countries, to get to know them properly ; and tha 
more distant the countries are, the more, under 

34 



POSADA DE LA SANGRE 

God, must you eat and drink your fill. And you 

will discover that all the nations of the world, 
down to the Saxons and Brandenburgers, have 
sought by sundry ways and means, as well as by 
sundry spices and processes, to achieve paradise 




on earth ; wherefore they set to work baking, 
brazing and pickling the most diverse foods so 
as to achieve temporal bliss. Every nation has 
its own tongue, and indeed its own daintiness of 

"tongue. Get to know its tongue ; eat Its foods 

35 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

and drink Its wines. Attune yourself whole- 
heartedly to the harmonies of its fish and cheeses, 
Its oil and smoked meats and bread and fruit, 
amid the orchestral accompaniment of its wines, 
which are as numerous as musical instruments. 
There are wines as penetrating as a Basque reed- 
pipe, as harsh as vendas, as deep as guitars ; so 




play your tunes to the wanderer, ye warm and 
sonorous wines ! A la salud de listed, Don 
Miguel 1 As you see, I am a foreigner ; I have 
crossed three countries to get here, but perhaps 
I could make friends with you all the same. 
Good, pour me out some more. You know, you 
Spaniards have a number of things In common 
with us Czechs ; for example, you have the same 
ch as we have, and our fine, hearty nr, and you 

36 



POSADA DE LA SANGRE 

are fond of diminutives, just as we are ; a la 
salud de Usted. You ought to pay a visit to our 
country, Mr. Cervantes ; we would drink to your 
health in beer with white froth, and we would 
pile up your plate with other foods than these, 
for each nation has its own tongue, but we can 
make ourselves understood where sound and 
fundamental matters are concerned, such as a 
good tavern, realism, the arts and freedom of the 
spirit. A la salud. 



37 



Velazquez a la Grandeza 

IF you want Velazquez you must go to Madrid, 
for one thing because most of his pictures are 
there, and then too, that is just the place, with 
its pomp in a sober setting, amid princely osten- 
tation and plebeian hubbub, that city which is at 
once ardent and cold, where he seems to fit in 
almost as a matter of course. If I were to sum 
up Madrid briefly, I should say that it is a city 
of courtly show and fitful revolutions ; just notice 
how the people here hold their heads : it is half 
grandeza and half doggedness. If I have any 
flair at all for cities and people, I should say that 
in the atmosphere of Madrid there is something 
like a gentle tension which causes a slight excite- 
ment, while Seville blissfully takes its ease, and 
Barcelona seethes in semi-concealment. 

Thus, Diego Velazquez de Silva, knight of 
Calatrava, royal marshal and court painter of that 
pale, cold and strange Philip IV, belongs to the 
Madrid of the Spanish Kings by a twofold right. 
First and foremost he has grandeur ; he is so 
supreme that he is beyond all lies. But this is 
not the exuberant, golden grandeur of Tizian ; 
there is in it a trenchant coldness, a delicate and 
yet unrelenting sense of detail, an uncanny sure- 

38 



VELAZQUEZ O LA GRANDEZA 

ness of eye and brain which rules the hand. I 
imagine "that his king made him marshal, not to 
reward him, but because he feared him : be- 
cause the intent and penetrating eyes of Velazquez 
made him uneasy : because he could not bear this 






equality with the painter and he therefore raised 
him to the rank of grandee. So then it was a 
Spanish paladin who painted the pale king with 
the weary eyelids and frozen eyes, or the pale 
infantas with rouge on their faces, poor, tightly 
laced puppets. Or the court dwarfs with the 
dropsical heads, the palace jesters and fools, 

39 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

, swaggering with grotesque dignity, a crippled and 
imbecile plebeian monstrosity unwittingly traves- 
tying the grandeur of the court. The king and 




ex 






his dwarf, the court and its jester : Velazquez 
accentuated this antithesis too markedly and too 
consistently for it not to have its peculiar meaning. 
The royal marshal would scarcely paint the court 

4 



VELAZQUEZ O LA GRANDEZA 

menials if he himself did not wish to. If there 
were nothing more in it than this, then at least 
there is one cruel and cold-blooded message : 
this is the king and the world he lives in. Velaz- 
quez was too superb a painter merely to fulfil 
commissions ; and too great a man to paint only 
what he saw. He saw too well not to allow his 
eyes to serve as a medium of vision for the whole 
of his clear and supreme intelligence. 



41 



El Greco o la Devocion 

YOU must search for Domenica Theotocopuli, 
known as El Greco, in Toledo ; not that he 
fits In there more than anything else, but the 
place is full of him and, besides, in Toledo nothing 
surprises you ; not even El Greco. A Greek by 
origin, a Venetian In colour, he was Gothic In 
his art, and by a whim of history he cropped up 
when Baroque was let loose. Imagine Gothic 
verticalism which has encountered a blast from 
a Baroque whirlwind ; the Gothic line warps, 
and a surge of Baroque darts up and permeates 
the perpendicular eruption of Gothic ; at times 
it seems as if the pictures were cracking with the 
tension of these two forces. There is such an 
Impact that It distorts the faces, warps the bodies 
and flings garments upon them In heavy tem- 
pestuous folds ; clouds uncoil like bed-linen flut- 
tering In a tempest, and through them penetrates 
an abrupt and tragical light, enkindling colours 
with an unnatural and eerie intensity. As If 
judgment-day had come, when signs and tokens 
are revealed In heaven and on earth. 

And just as In Greco himself two types of form 
merge into each other, so also you feel In his 
pictures two conflicting elements which goad each 

42 



EL GRECO LA DEVOCION 

other on to extreme lengths : a direct and pure 
vision of God, such as hallowed art up to the 
Gothic period, and a rampant mysticism by which 
the human, all-too-human Catholic Baroque was 
emotionally stimulated. The old Christ was not 
the Son of Man but God Himself in. His glory. 





Theotocopuli the Byzantine carried the old Christ 
within him ; but in Baroque Europe he discovered 
the humanized Christ who had been made flesh. 
The old God held sway sublimely, relentlessly 
and a little rigidly in his mandorla ; the Baroque 
and Catholic God amid his angel choirs glided 
to earth in order to clutch at the believer, and 

43 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

draw him within the curving range of his glories . 
Greco the Byzantine came from the basilicas of 
holy silence into the churches with their loud 
surges of organ music and frenzied processions ; 
I should have imagined that this meant rather a 
lot to him ; but amid the uproar he did not lose 
the thread of his own prayers , and he himself 
began to shout in a dire and unnatural voice. 
In him there developed what might be called a 
frenzy of belief; this mundane and material 
tumult did not assuage him ; he had to shout it 
down with a more shrill and vehement outcry. 
How odd : this eastern Greek surmounted western 
Baroque by raising it to an ecstatic pitch of 
emotion and getting rid of its exuberant and 
muscular human attributes. The older he grew, 
the more did he dehumanize the figures, lengthen- 
ing the bodies out of all proportion, emaciating 
the faces with the gauntness of martyrdom, and 
fixing the eyes with a wide-open stare upon a 
pillar. Up, heavenward ! He removes reality 
from colours ; his darkness hisses and his colours 
are enkindled as if illuminated by lightning. 
Hands which are too fragile and incorporeal are 
uplifted in amazement and terror, the stormy 
heavens are rent asunder and the shrill lament of 
awe and belief reaches the ancient God. 

Yes, this Greek was an overwhelming genius ; 
some assert that he was mad. Every man whose 
eyes become feverishly fixed upon his own visions 
is a little mad ; or at least he lapses into man- 

44 



EL GRECO O LA DEVOCION 

nerlsms because he takes from himself and from 
nowhere else the material and form of his visions. 
In Toledo foreigners are shown la Casa de Greco-; 
I cannot believe that this charming little house 
with the trim, tiled garden belonged to the .queer 
Greek. It has too mundane a smile for that, and 
it also looks too prosperous. We know that the 
only heritage which Greco left to his son was two 
hundred of his pictures. Evidently at that time 
there was no very brisk demand for the retables 
of the eccentric Cretan. It is only to-day that 
the spectators crowd round these pictures in 
devout admiration ; but they are people without 
faith, who are in no way startled by the shrill 
and despairing outcry of the Greek's piety 



45 



Goya o el Reverse 

IN the Prado at Madrid there are dozens of 
pictures and hundreds of drawings by him ; 
and so for the sake of Goya, if for nothing else, 
Madrid is a great place for a pilgrimage. Neither 
before nor after him was there a painter who 
pounced upon his age with so ample a clutch, 
with such intense and ruthless verve, and por- 
trayed it, seamy side and all ; Goya is not realism, 
Goya is onslaught ; Goya is revolution ; Goya is 
a pamphleteer multiplied by a Balzac. 

His most exquisite work : designs for gobelins. 
A rustic fair, children, paupers, an open-air dance, 
an injured bricklayer, a brawl, girls with a jug, 
a vintage, a snow-storm, games, a working-class 
wedding ; sheer life, its joys and sorrows, playful 
and evil scenes, a solemn and also a blissful 
spectacle ; such teeming life, as lived by the 
people, had never before surged forth in any cycle 
of paintings. It produces the effect of a folk- 
song, a frisky jota, a winsome seguidilla ; it is a 
specimen of rococo, but now quite humanized ; 
it is painted with a particular delicacy and relish 
which is surprising in so fierce a painter as this. 
Such is his attitude towards the people, 

Portraits of the royal family : Carlos IV, 
46 



O EL REVERSO 

bloated and listless, like a bumptious, dull-witted 
jack-in-office ; Queen Maria Luisa, with rabid 
and gimlety.eyes, an ill-favoured harridan and an 
arrant virago, their family bored, brazen and 
repulsive. Goya's portraits of kings are not far 
short of insults, Velazquez did not flatter ; 




Goya went as far as to laugh Their Highnesses 
to scorn. It was ten years after the French 
Revolution, and a painter, without turning a hair, 
told the throne what he thought of it, 

But a few years later there was another revolu- 
tion : the Spanish nation flung itself tooth and 

47 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

nail upon the French conquerors. Two astound- 
ing pictures by Goya : a desperate attack by the 
Spaniards on Murat's mamelukes, and the execu- 
tion of the Spanish rebels. These are specimens 
of reporting, which for sheer genius and emotional 
eloquence, have not their equal in the whole 
history of painting ; at the same time Goya, as 
a mere incidental, achieved that modernity of 
composition which was adopted by Manet sixty 
years later. 

Maja desnuda : the modern revelation of sexu- 
ality. A barer and more carnal nudity than 
any which had preceded it. The end of erotic 
pretence. The end of allegorical nudity. It 
is the only nude by Goya, but there is more 
exposure in it than in tons of academic flesh. 

Pictures from Goya's house : it was with this 
appalling witches 5 sabbath that the artist decor- 
ated his house. It consists almost entirely of 
mere black and white paintings feverishly flung 
on to the canvas ; it is like hell illuminated with 
livid flashes of lightning. Sorceresses, cripples 
and monstrosities : man in his dark wallowings 
and his bestiality. You might say that Goya 
turned man inside out, peering through his nostrils 
and his yawning gullet, studying his misshapen 
vileness in a distorting mirror. It is like a night- 
mare, like a shriek of horror and protest. I can- 
not imagine that this caused Goya any amuse- 
ment : he more likely struggled frenziedly against 
some of it. I had an uneasy feeling that the horns 



GOYA O EL REVERSO 

of the Catholic devil and the cowls of the in- 
quisitors protrude from this hysterical inferno. 
At that time the constitution had been abolished 
in Spain and the Holy Officium restored ; from 
the convulsions of the civil wars and with the help 
of the fanaticized mob the dark and bloody 
reaction of despotism had been installed. Goya's 
chamber of horrors is a ferocious shout of disgust 
and hatred. No revolutionary ever affronted the 
world with so frantic and virulent a protest. 




1 re ir e 



Goya's sketches : the feuilletons of a tremen- 
dous journalist. Scenes from life in Madrid, 
weddings and customs of the lower classes, chulas 
and beggars, the very essence of life, the very 
essence of the people ; Los Toros, bull-fights in 
their chivalrous aspect, their picturesque beauty, 
their blood and cruelty. The Inquisition, a 
fiendish church mummery, fierce and caustic 
pages from a lampoon ; Desastres de la guerra, 
a fearful indictment of war, a document for all 
time, pity which is truculent and ferocious in its 

49 D 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

passionate directness ; Caprichos, Goya's wild 
outbursts of laughter and sobbing at the hapless, 
ghastly and fantastic creature which arrogates an 
immortal soul to itself. 

Reader, let me tell you that the world has not 
yet done justice to this great painter, this most 
modern of painters ; it has not yet learnt the 
lesson he teaches. This harsh and aggressive 
outcry, this violent and thrilling quintessence of 
mankind ; no academic dullness, no aesthetic 
trifling ; when a man can " see life steadily and 
see it whole,' 5 really see it, I mean, then he is the 
doer of deeds, he is a fighter, an arbiter, a fire- 
brand. There is a revolution in Madrid : Fran- 
cisco Goya y Lucientes is erecting barricades in 
the Prado. 



Y los Otros 

THERE Is nothing more I can marvel at ; 
after Goya I cannot stand In amazement 
before any of the masters, light or dark. RIbera 
is one of those dark and stern painters ; I like 
his gaunt old men and sinewy fellows to whom 
he gives the names of saints and martyrs ; but 
here is a holier master, half earthly and half 
redeemed, black as a cowl and white as an ironed 
surplice, and that Is Zurbaran ; his name Is broad 
and sturdy like his painting. All his life he 
painted friars ; they are lanky or haggard fellows, 
but they are always wrought of tough fibre ; they 
show what staunch discipline, what genuine, 
austere manliness formed the underlying ideas of 
monkhood. If you would see a glorification of 
man in his bony, bristly aspect, in his uncouth, 
unshaven condition, do not search for the por- 
traits of army leaders or kings, but look at 
the great monks of the worthy and pious 
Zurbaran. 

And If you want to see Murillo, It is better to 
go to Seville ; you will discover that what makes 
his work so attractive Is its amorous Sevillan 
tenderness. His Holy Virgins In a soft, warm 
light why, they are the lush girls of Seville, 

S 1 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

proud and winsome damsels : and Don Esteban, 
good man that he was, glorified the heavens by 
discovering heaven in Andalusia. He also painted 
pretty, curly-haired boys from Triana or one of 
the suburbs ; to-day these pictures of boys are 
scattered in museums all over the world, but those 



w 




ZURBARANo o^ grades 

boys themselves are In Spain to this very day and 
they roam about in all paseos and plazas making 
a terrific, hearty din ; and when they spy a 
foreigner looking for the children of Murlllo, 
they rush round him uttering a war-cry, and 
extort pesetas and perros from him in the un- 
abashed and traditional mendicant manner of 
southern children. 

52 



Y LOS OTROS 




53 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

And now, when I take stock of Spanish art as 
a whole ; when I recall the wax Christs and poly- 
chrome statues with all the appurtenances of the 
tortured and flayed body ; the tombs which make 
you almost smell the actual odour of decay ; the 
misshapen and relentless portraits heavens above, 
what a peepshow ! Spanish art has almost made 
a special point of displaying man as he is, with 
terrible emphasis and almost in a declamatory 
manner : Behold, this Is Don Quixote I Behold, 
this is a king ! Behold, this Is a cripple ! Lo, 
such Is man ! Perhaps this Is the Catholic denial 
of our sinful and mortal bodily husk ; perhaps 
it Is 

Wait a moment, I must now add something 
about the Moors. You cannot conceive what 
artists they were ; their upholstery, their tints, 
the architectural filigree and arched doorways, 
what magic and brilliance, what delicacy, what 
feverish creativeness, what proficiency In the 
plastic arts ! But the Koran forbade them to 
portray man ; they were not allowed to imitate 
man or create idols In his Image. It was the 
Christian re-conquest of Spain which, together 
with the cross, brought the Image of man. It 
is perhaps since then, perhaps because the curse 
of the Koran was broken, that the image of man 
has occupied Spanish art so Intensely and some- 
times even preposterously. Up to the nineteenth 
century, Spain, vastly picturesque though It is, 
has no landscape painting ; only Images of man, 

54 



y LOS OTROS 

of man on a wooden cross , of man In the height 
of his power, of man the cripple, of man dead and 

in decay . . . until the apocalyptic democracy 
of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, 



55 



Andalucta 

I MUST frankly admit that when I woke up 
in the train and looked through the window, 
I hadn't the faintest idea where I was ; alongside 
the railway-line I saw something that looked like 
a quickset hedge, behind it brown, flat fields, and 
from them protruded, here and there, sparse and 
jaded-looking trees. I had a strong and comfort- 




able impression that I was travelling somewhere 
between Bratislava and Nove Zamky, and I began 
to give myself a wash and brush up, lustily whist- 
ling " Kysiica, Kysiica " and other songs appro- 
priate to the occasion. When, however, I had 

5 6 



ANDALUCtA 

exhausted my supply of Czech songs I perceived 
that what I had taken for a quickset hedge was 
a dense aftergrowth of opuntia, six feet high, 
plump aloes and a sort of stunted palm-tree, 
probably chamaerops, and the jaded trees were, 
I found, date-palms, while the brown tilled plain 
was apparently Andalusia. 

So you see how It is ; if you were travelling 




across the tilled pampas, the Australian maize- 
fields, the wheat-laden expanses of Canada, or 
heavens knows where else, it would be exactly like 
the country near Kolin or Bfeclav. Nature is 
Infinitely various, and as regards man, he differs 
in hair, language and a thousand sundry ways 
of life ; but the farmer's work is the same every- 
where, and arranges the face of the earth in the 
same straight and regular furrows. The houses 
are different, and so are the churches ; why, even 

57 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

the telegraph poles are different In each country, 
but the tilled field is the same everywhere, 
whether in the neighbourhood of Pardubice or 
of Seville. There is something great and also a 
trifle monotonous about this. 

But I must add that the farmer of Andalusia 
has not the same broad and clumsy gait as ours ; 
the Andalusian farmer rides on a donkey, which 
makes him look excessively Biblical and droll. 



Calles Sevillanas 

I WAGER a bottle of aljarafe, or anything you 
like, that every guide, every journalist, and 
even every young lady tourist, will refer to 
" smiling " Seville. Certain stock phrases and 
epithets possess the ghastly and irritating quality 
of being right. You can knock me down or call 
me a purveyor of tushery or an arrant babbler 
for saying so, but " smiling " Seville really is 
smiling Seville. Nothing can be done about it ; 
in fact, there is no other way of describing the 
place. It is just " smiling " Seville ; in every 
corner of its eyes and mouth there is a flutter of 
merriment and tenderness. 

And perhaps it is only that a street, however 
narrow, glistens as if it were freshly whitewashed 
every Saturday. And that from every window, 
from every lattice in it are thrust garlands, pel- 
argonia and fuchsias, small palms and all kinds 
of greenery, blossoming and leafy. Here the 
awnings have still remained from the summer, 
stretched from roof to roof, and intersected by 
the sky, as by a blue knife ; and when you stroll 
along, you seem to be, not in the street, but in 
the flower-laden passage of a house where you are 
paying a visit ; at this corner somebody may 

59 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

perhaps shake you by the hand and say : " We 
are pleased to see you " or " i Que tal ? " or 
something cheerful of that sort. And everything 
here is as clean as a new pin ; there is a smell^of 
garlands and frying oil ; every door with its lattice 
leads to a trim heavenly garden which is called 
a patio, and here again is a church with a majolica 
dome and a portal as ornate as if a great festival 
were on, and above all this the gleaming minaret 
of the Giralda is uplifted. And this narrow, 
crooked lane is called Sierpes because it twists 
like a snake ; here the life of Seville flows along 
densely and slowly : casinos and taverns, shops 
full of lace and flowered silk, caballeros in light 
Andalusian sombreros, tiny streets where vehicles 
cannot be driven, because of the crowds of people 
drinking wine, chatting, haggling, laughing and 
generally idling there in various ways. Then 
there is an old cathedral embedded in the old 
quarter among the houses and patios, so that you 
can only see bits of it wherever you are, as if it 
were too big to be viewed as a whole by mortal 
eye. And then another small faience church, 
miniature palaces with bright and graceful front- 
ages, arcades and balconies and embossed lattices, 
a notched wall, from behind which palms and 
broad-leaved musas lean over ; always something 
attractive, a snug corner where you feel at ease 
and which you never want to forget. Just recall 
that wooden cross on the little square, as white 
and restful as a nun's cell '; those delightful, quiet 

60 



CALLES SEVILLANAS 




61 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 
quarters of the city which contain the narrowest 
streets and the most charming nooks in the 

world 

Yes, it was there, twilight had fallen, and the 
children in the street were dancing the sevillana 
to the strains of an angelic barrel-organ ; some- 
where thereabouts is Murillo's house ye gods, 
if I lived there, everything I wrote would be 
tender and cheerful ; and there too, is the most 
beautiful spot in the world ; it is called Plaza de 
Dona Elvira or Plaza de Santa Cruz no, these 
are two spots, and now I do not know which is 
the more beautiful, nor am I ashamed yet that I 
was moved to tears by their beauty and my weari- 
ness. Yellow and red frontages and a neat green 
garden in the middle : a garden containing speci- 
mens of faience, box-trees, children and oleander, 
an embossed crucifix and the evening^ peal of 
bells ; and I, unworthy mortal in the midst of it 
all, murmuring to myself in dazed accents : Good 
Lord, why, this is like a dream or a fairy tale ! 

And then there is nothing more to be said, and 
all that you can do is to surrender yourself to the 
dazzling loveliness. Of course, you too ought to 
be young and handsome ; you ought to have a 
magnificent voice and be madly in love with a 
beautiful maiden in a mantilla, and that will do. 
Beauty is sufficient unto itself. But there are 
various kinds of beauty ; among them the Sevillan 
comeliness is particularly voluptuous and win- 
some, cosy and affectionate ; it has feminine 

62 



CALLES SEVILLANAS 

lushness with a crucifix on its bosom, it is fragrant 
with myrtle and tobacco, and takes its ease in 
seemly and sensual comfort * You seem to be, 
not in streets and squares, but in the passages and 
patios of a house where contented people dwell ; 




you walk along almost on tip-toe, but nobody 
asks you : what are you doing here, caballero 
indiscreto ? 

(There is also a large, brown, diapered Baroque 
palace ; at first I thought it was a royal castle, 

63 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

but It turned out to be a government tobacco 
factory, the very one in which Carmen rolled 
cigarettes. A large number of these Carmens are 
still employed there, wearing an oleander blossom 
behind their ears and living at Triana, while Don 
Jose has become a gendarme in a three-cornered 
hat ; and Spanish cigarettes are still appallingly 
strong and black, no doubt through the influence 
of those dark girls from Triana.) 



64 



Rejas y Patios 

JUST as the streets of Seville look like passages 
and courtyards, the windows of the apartments 
look like bird-cages hanging on the walls. You 
must know that they are all provided with a lattice 
and they project beyond the houses : these 
lattices are called rejas, and sometimes they are 
such beautiful specimens of metal- work in spirals, 
palmetas and wands, with all kinds of twisted and 
criss-cross patterns, that the proper thing to do 
would certainly be to sing a serenade beneath 
them about sus ojitos negros or mi triste corazon 
(m-brum brum, m-brum- brum, with guitar accom- 
paniment). Oiga, nina : 

Para cantarte mis penas 

liago hablar a mi guitarra 

si no entiedes lo que dice-e 

no digas que tienes alma (m-brum) 

For you have no idea how it adds to the attrac- 
tiveness of a nina like that, when she is behind 
a lattice like a rare bird. 

Altogether it would appear that embossed 
lattices form a speciality of national Spanish art ; 
never could I produce any verbal embossings and 
twirlings to match a church lattice, while as for 

65 E 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

secular lattices, instead of a doorway there Is a 
fine lattice leading into every house, the windows 
twinkle with lattices, and tendrils of flowers hang 
from latticed balconies ; for which reason Sevilla 
as a whole looks like a harem, like a cage, or no, 




wait a bit it looks as If across it were stretched 
chords, upon which your eyes strum an amorous 
refrain to your enchantment. A Sevillan lattice 
is not a lattice which encloses, but one which 
forms a frame ; it is a decorative framework 
affording a glimpse of the house. Ah, my friends, 
those delightful glimpses of Sevillan patios, of 

66 



REJAS Y PATIOS 

white anterooms Inlaid with faience, of an open 
courtyard bestrewn with flowers and palms, of 
a tiny paradise where human families dwell ! 




House after house wafts upon you the shadowy 
coolness of its patio ; and however poor it may 
be s the brick paving there Is arrayed with a tiny 

67 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 



7~/ / / i ii \^ 




68 



REJAS Y PATIOS 

green jungle of flower-pots containing an aspi- 
distra or two, oleander, myrtle and speedwell, and 
oozy dracaena and some sort of cheap and heavenly 
asparagus ; and not only that, but from the walls 




are suspended flower-pots with tradescantia, 
syringa and cordyline, and panicum, and bird- 
cages, while in the yard an old mammy takes her 
ease in a wicker-chair ; but there are also patios 
bordered with arcades and paved with majolica, 

69 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

where a faience fountain gurgles ? and latania and 
chamaerops spread their fans, and musa and coco- 
nut and kentia and phoenix arch their long leaves 
from a dense foliage of philodendra, aralia, clivia 
and yukka and evonymus, to say nothing of ferns, 
rnesembrianthema, begonias and camelias and all 
the other curly, feathery, spiky and bulky forms 
of leafage in paradise lost. And all this is arranged 
in flower-pots in a tiny yard, and every house 
gives you the surprising impression of a palace 
when you peep through the shapely lattice into 
its patio which recalls paradise and denotes 
home. 

Home and family. In every part of the world 
there are houses and dwellings, but there are two 
regions in Europe where the people have set 
up homes in the really full, traditional and 
poetical sense of the word. One is old-time 
England, overgrown with ivy ? a place of fireside, 
arm-chairs and books ; and the other is Spain 
with the charming latticed glimpse of woman's 
realm, family life, the blossoming heart of the 
house. This lush, sweltering land has no family 
fireside ; it has the family patio where you can 
see the good people's homely comfort, their chil- 
dren, their daily festival. And I wager that it is 
a good thing to be a woman here, for she is 
crowned with the great glory and high honour of 
the household patio, amid a splendour of palms, 
laurels and myrtle. I believe that the beauty of 
the home is the special and potent glorification 

70 



REJAS Y PATIOS 

of woman ; it declares her rule, exalts her renown 
and surrounds her throne. And by woman , I do 
not mean you, big-eyed muchacha, but your 

mama> the old, bearded lady in the wicker-chair 
it is in her honour that I write this. 



Giralda 



Giralda Is the landmark of Seville ; It is 
JL so high that it Is visible from every direction. 
If in the course of your globe-trotting you per- 
ceive, high above the house-tops, the gallery and 
turret of the Giralda, why, you can be certain that 
you are In Seville, for which you may thank your 
lucky stars. Now the Giralda Is a Moorish 
minaret with Christian bells ; It is begirt with all 
the beautiful devices of Arab decoration, and 
right on the top of it there Is a statue of Faith, 
while the lower part is constructed of Roman and 
Visigoth ashlars. That Is just like Spain as a 
whole ; it has Roman foundations, Moorish pomp 
and a Catholic mind. Here Rome left only a 
little of its urban civilization, but bequeathed 
something more permanent the Latin farmer, 
which implies the Latin language. And this 
provincial Latin rusticity was assailed by the 
highly developed, luxurious, almost decadent 
culture of the Moors. In its way it was a para- 
doxical culture ; even in the highest stage of its 
refinement it retained a nomadic imprint. Where 
the Moors built castles and palaces you will 
detect signs that they were originally tent- 
dwellers. The Moorish patio is a cosy repre- 

72 



GIRALDA 

sentation of an oasis ; the gurgling fountain in 
the Spanish courtyard, to this very day still 
gratifies the desert dream "of cool springs; the 




garden, represented by the contents of the flower- 
pots, is a portable garden. The tent-dweller 
packs up his home and all his luxuries so that he 
can load them on asses ; that is why his home is 

73 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

made of textiles and his luxuries are of filigree. 
His tent is his castle ; it is garnished with every 
pomp and splendour, but it is a pomp which a 
man can carry on his back ; it is woven and 
embroidered and stitched with goat's or lamb's 
wool ; and Moorish architecture has retained the 
delicate beauty and surface appeal of a woven 
fabric. The Moor even built lace-work arch- 
ways and embroidered ceilings and walls inter- 
woven with ornaments. And even though he 
could not pack up the Giralda and carry it away 
on mules, he bedecked its walls with a carpet 
pattern and a delicate fabric as if he had woven 
and sewn it while sitting on crossed legs. And 
when subsequently the Latin farmer and the 
Visigothic knight with sword and crucifix drove 
out the oriental sorcerer, they never got rid of 
this richly woven dream ; the Gothic estilo florido, 
the Renaissance estilo plateresco, the Baroque 
estilo churrigueresco are nothing but architectural 
diaper and embroidery and filigree quilting and 
lace-work, which covers and, dream-like, conceals 
the stone walls and transforms them into magical 
glistening draperies* The nation perished but 
its culture lives. This most Catholic of countries 
has never ceased to be Moorish. All this and 
many other things you could see with your own 
eyes on the Giralda of Seville. 

And from the Giralda you can see the whole 
of Seville, so white and shiny that it makes your 
eyes ache, and pink with its flat, tiled house-tops 

74 



&JRALDA 

braided with faience cupolas and belfries and 
battlements, palm-trees and cypresses ; and right 
below, the huge, almost monstrous roof of the 




cathedral, an eruption of pillars, Gothic turrets, 
buttresses, groins and campaniles, and all around, 
farther than the eye can see, the green and gold 

75 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

plain of Andalusia, a-sparkle with glistening 
homes. But if your sight is good, you will see 
even more ; you will see families at the back of 
the patios, gardens on balconies and terraces and 
flat house-tops, wherever there is room for the 
smallest flower-pot, and women watering flowers 
or whitewashing their blanched cube of a house 
with a nice creamy coating of lime ; as if in this 
life there were nothing else to think of but beauty. 




And now that we have the white town before 
us, let us make a pilgrimage to two places, which 
are particularly worthy of respect, and which are 
adorned with a whole set of masterly and worship- 
ful works. The first is the cathedral. Every 
proper cathedral has two functions. To begin 
with, it is so big that it is entirely cut off from 
human habitations ; it stands in their midst like 
a sacred elephant among a herd of sheep, isolated 
and alien, a divine eminence projecting from the 
human ruck. And in the second place, as soon 

76 



GIRALDA 

as you enter It, you find one huge open space 
amid the entrails of the town, larger in area than 
a market-place, larger than a city square ; when 
you arrive there from narrow lanes, yards and 
household dwelling-rooms it is like reaching a 
mountain-peak ; these pillars and vaulted roofs 
do not enclose a space, but with an ample sweep 
they extend it, thrusting a broad and high outlet 
amid the rabble of a mediaeval town. Here, my 
soul, heave a sigh of relief ; in the name of God 
you can take a deep and soothing breath. 




But at this point of time I cannot tell you every- 
thing that was inside. Alabaster altars and vast 
lattices and the tomb of Columbus. Murlllo and 
wood carvings, gold and traceries, marble and 
Baroque and retables and pulpits and many other 
Catholic objects which I did not even see ; for 
I looked at what surmounted it all, the five large, 
steep naves, quite a divine naval display, a sub- 
lime fleet swimming above the lustre of Seville ; 
in spite of all the art and all the culture amassed 

77 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

within Its flanks, It contains an abundance of free 
and sacred space. 

The other spot Is the ayuntamiento or town hall. 
The exterior of Seville town hall Is fairly plastered 
with relief and cornices, festoons and medallions 
and garlands, pilasters, caryatides, scutcheons and 
masks ; and inside, from ceiling to floor it is 
bestrewn with wood-carvings and canopies, gild- 
ings, faience, stucco and every variety of trappings 
such as the masters of every guild could devise. 
It is ostentiously done, and suggests that the city 
fathers were almost naive in their eagerness to 
show off ; it somehow recalls the good-natured 
dignity of the king of hearts or diamonds. These 
old town halls always move me by the emphasis 
with which they declare the renown and brilliance 
of the municipality ; I cannot help feeling that 
In them an ancient urban democracy established 
its throne and adorned it like an altar or like a 
royal residence. 

Now when present-day democracy can afford 
a palace, it Is a bank or a commercial building. 
In less progressive times it used to be a minster 
or a town halL 



Alcazar 

FROM the outside It is a mediaeval, notched 
wall of bare ashlars ; but within, it is a 
Moorish castle covered with verses from the 
Koran and bedecked from top to bottom with all 
the weird hocus-pocus and sorcery of the Orient. 
You must know that this Arabian Nights castle 
was built by Moorish architects for a Christian 
king. It was in the year of grace 1248 (as they 
say in the historical novels) when the Christian 
king Ferdinand entered the captured Moorish 
city of Seville on St. Clement's Day ; but he 
was assisted in performing this Christian deed by 
one Ibn al Ahmar, Sultan of Granada, from 
which it is obvious that religion has always been 
hand in hand with politics. Whereupon the 
Christian king, for reasons which were doubtless 
pious and enlightened, drove three hundred thou- 
sand accursed Musulmans out of Seville ; but 
three hundred years later the Moorish masters 
were building palaces for the Christian kings and 
hidalgos, and were covering their walls with 
subtle ornamentation and Cufic suras from the 
Koran, Which fact throws a peculiar twilight 
on the age-long struggle between Christians and 
Moors. 

79 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

And if I had to describe the patios, the halls 
and the apartments of the Alcazar, I would set 




about the task like a builder ; I would first of all 
collect the material, such as stone and majolica, 
stucco, marble and precious timbers, and whole 

80 



ALCAZAR 

cartloads of the loveliest words for mixing the 
mortar of my prose style ; then, as builders do, 
I would start from the bottom, from the faience 
floors ; on top of that I would place the slender 
marble pillars, keeping a sharp eye on their 
sockets and capitals, but I would pay particular 
care to the walls inlaid with the choicest majolica 
tiles, overspread with lacework of stucco, em- 
blazoned with a whole delicate and lustrous 
colour-scheme, pierced by windows, arcades, 
apertures, trellises, ajimez, and galleries in accord- 
anqe with the noble order of the horse-shoe, the 
broken arch, the circle and the lobe ; whereupon, 
above all this I would arch aloft the vaultings and 
ceilings of stalactites, meshes and networks of 
stucco, star-patterns, coffers, faiences, gold, tint- 
ings and carvings, and having done all this, I 
should feel thoroughly ashamed of my bungling 
efforts ; for it cannot be described like that. 

A better way would be for you to take a kaleido- 
scope and turn it round and round until the sight 
of that endless geometry makes you feel dizzy ; 
watch the rippling of water until your senses are 
benumbed ; drug yourself with hashish until you 
see the whole world turning into an endless series 
of dissolving patterns ; add to this everything that 
intoxicates and beguiles, that is opalescent and 
voluptuous ; everything that clouds the senses ; 
everything that resembles lace and brocade, fili- 
gree and jewels, the treasure of Ali Baba, precious 
fabrics, a stalactite dome and the mere stuff of 

81 F 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

dream ; and through this many- tinted, fantastic 
and almost crazy array you must suddenly pass 




a comb so as to produce a tremendously neat, 
dainty and yet strict arrangement, a quiet and 
contemplative constraint, a sort of dreamy and 

82 



ALCAZAR 

wise renunciation, which deploys these fairy-tale 
treasures in an almost unmaterial and unreal sur- 
face, soaring upon fragile arcades. This unutter- 
able pomp is so dematerialized in its -surf ace that 
it becomes almost a mere vision projected on to 
the walls. How material, gross and ungainly is 
our art, appealing almost more to the sense of 
touch than the sense of sight, when compared 
with the work of these strange Moors ; we just 
clutch and handle the things which please us ; 
we pass our hands over It roughly and brutally, 
with a gesture of ownership. Heaven alone 
knows what sense of the untrammelled, what vast 
oriental spirituality led the Moorish architects to 
this purely optical enchantment, to these dreamy, 
unmaterial edifices, woven of lace, sheen, aper- 
tures, and kaleidoscopic patterns ; this altogether 
worldly, sensual, luscious art actually quelled 
matter and transformed it into a magical veil. 
Life is a dream. On these terms it will be 
realized that the Latin peasant and the Roman 
Christian had to sweep away this too refined and 
ornamental race. The European material and 
tragic sense of values had to prevail over the 
spiritualized sensualism of one of the noblest of 
civilizations. 

Let me add that, quite briefly, the difference 
between European buildings and Moorish archi- 
tecture is implicit In the fact that Gothic and, 
indeed, Baroque, are built for spectators, standing 
or kneeling, while Moorish architecture was 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

clearly Intended for spiritual voluptuaries who, 
while lying on their backs, revelled in these 
magical arches, ceilings, friezes and endless decor- 
ative arabesques which were vaulted above their 
heads to provide them with the inexhaustible 
means for dreamy contemplation, 

And all of a sudden these fantastic, delicate 
patios, enclosed within the notched wall, are 
invaded by a flock of white pigeons ; at this you 
realize, almost with amazement, the true meaning 
of this magical tectonic order ; it is absolute 
lyricism. 



Jardines 



gardens of the Alcazar, In their own 
JL particular way, are typical of Spanish gardens 
as a whole ; they contain, it is true, a few odds 
and ends which are to be seen nowhere else, such 
as, the bafios or vaulted bath-room of Dona 
Maria de Padilla, the mistress of the Christian 
king Pedro the Cruel. It is said that, In accord- 
ance with the etiquette of the time, the cabal- 
leros of the court used to drink water from her 
bath ; but I don't believe this, because I have 
seen precious few caballeros in Seville drink 
water. 

Now I have tried to describe from memory 
what a Spanish garden looks like ; but as there 
wasn't room for it on one sheet of paper, I had 
to make a threefold description : 

i. A Spanish garden consists, first and fore- 
most, of cypresses, clipped box-trees, myrtle, 
privet, laurel, holly, laurocerasas, honeysuckle, and 
suchlike diversely shaped shrubs, pyramids and 
spheres, from which by a process of clipping, 
linking and moulding are produced alleys and 
passages, vaults and arches, green ramparts, 
palings and borders, hedges, partitions and laby- 
rinths, and, in fact, the whole ingenious geo- 

85 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

metrical architecture of the old, severe school of 
gardening; and in this sunny land It will be 
readily understood that this is not really a garden 
which produces plants, but a garden which 
produces shade. 

2. In the second place the Spanish garden con- 
sists, first and foremost, of flagstones, bricks and 
glazed tiles, majolica flights of steps, faience 







palings, roundels and seats ; further, of majolica 
tanks, fountains, cisterns, cascades, jets and 
runnels gurgling with a delicate trickle of water ; 
of faience pavilions, balconies, pergolas and 
balustrades ; wherein the aforesaid majolica is 
decorated with the neatest of black-and-white 
chequering, meshing, streaking, patterning or 
painting in ochre, indigo and Venetian scarlet ; 
and this faience world teems with flower-pots : 
flower-pots containing camelias, fig-plants, azaleas, 
abutilons, begonias and coleuses, chrysanthemums 

86 



JARDINES 

and asters ; whole avenues and clusters of flower- 
pots baked to a turn ; flower-pots on the ground, 







on the rims of shallow water-troughs, on terraces 
and on steps. 

3. In the third place, the Spanish garden eoii- 
8 7 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

slstSj first and foremost, of a most luxuriant jungle, 
of a tropical brushwood thrusting forth a regular 
jet of palms, cedars and plane-trees, entwined 
with bougainvillaea, clematis, aristolochiae, be- 
gonia, as well as large-leaved shoots with 
flowers resembling the convolvulus, which plant 
is known here as " campanilla," also other shoots 
blossoming like thorn-apple, which, too, is called 
" campanilla," and other creeping plants, blossom- 
ing like a huge clematis and likewise named 
" campanllla J5 ; then there are dracsena and date- 
palms, chamasrops, acacias, phoenix-palms, and 
how on earth am I to know all their names ? 
If you only knew the kind of leaves they have ! 
Glossy and stringy, tufted like ostrich feathers, 
unsheathed like broad-swords, fluttering like 
banners ; and you can take my word for it, that 
if Eve clad herself in one of these leaves, it was 
not to cover her shame, but for the sake of display 
and luxury. In this dense paradisical forest there 
is no room for the tender bud or the blade of 
grass ; it may be that they cultivate grass here 
only in flower-pots. 

I have described this trio for you In three 
separate sketches ; but in reality the whole thing 
grows In one single spot, which of course, baffles 
description. The Spanish garden represents, at 
the same time, a clipped system of gardening, 
crammed with miniature faience fountains, ter- 
races, roundels and steps, littered with flower- 
pots, draped with palm-jungles and creepers ; 

88 



JARDINES 

and the whole lot sometimes occupies no more 
than a bare handful of ground studded with 
fountains and runnels ; never have I seen gardens 
so amazingly concentrated and intensified as in 
Spain. An English park is a cultivated land- 




scape ; a Spanish garden is an artificial paradise. 
A French park is a monumental edifice ; a 
Spanish garden is an intimate dream. In those 
nooks soft with shade, gurgling waters, cool 
majolica, dazing fragrance and tropical leafage is 
the gentle tread of another, a more pleasure-loving 
race ; here, too, the Moors have left their traces. 



Mantillas 



ALL that follows Is intended In honour and 
praise of the ladies of Seville. They are 
petite and dark, dark-haired, with dark frisky eyes, 
and mostly in dark attire ; they have tiny hands 
and feet, as required by the old lyrics of chivalry, 
and they look as if they 
were just on their way to 
confession, that is, they are 
saintly and rather sinful in 
appearance. But what gives 
them particular splendour 
and dignity Is the peineta, 
the lofty tortoise-shell comb, 
with which every lady of 
Seville is crowned ; a sump- 
tuous and triumphal comb, 
like a crown or a halo. 
This ingenious superstruc- 
ture transforms every dark 
chiquita into a tall, grand 
lady ; with a thing like that 
on her head she just has to 
walk proudly, to carry her 
head like a sacrament and to let only her eyes dart 
about, which accordingly the ladies of Seville do. 

90 




MANTILLAS 

The second and even greater glory of the ladies 
of Seville is the mantilla, a lace wrap flung across 
the queenly comb ; the mantilla, which is black 




or white, like the veil of the Moslem women, the 
cowl of the penitent, the mitre of the pontiff and 
the helmet of the conqueror ; the mantilla, which 

9 1 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

serves to crown woman and, at the same time, to 
conceal her and make her shimmer more allur- 
ingly. Never have I seen women wearing any- 
thing more dignified and subtle than this garb 
which blends nunnery, harem and the veil of the 
beloved. 

But allow me to stop and extol these women 




of Seville. What self-assurance, what national 
pride these dark chulas must have to make them 
prefer the ceremonious and antique peineta and 
mantilla to all enticements of the world's fashions. 
Seville is by no means a village ; Seville is a rich, 
vivacious city, the very air of which is amorous ; 
if the ladies of Seville keep to their mantillas, that 
is firstly because it suits them, and secondly 
because they set store by being Spanish beauties 

92 



MANTILLAS 

in all their antique renown ; but the chief thing 
is that it suits them. 




f If ^^ J J J ^s. v - 

^?^<&) l l\ 

^^^ 

A >/ 

. Lj* 



If the ladies of Seville are not crowned, they 
are at least wreathed ; above their ears, in their 
black hair they carry a whole nosegay, or at least 

93 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

a rose, a camella or an oleander-blossom ; and 
across their shoulders and arms they wear a silk 




shawl, with an embroidery of large roses, heavy 
tassels and a knot at the bosom ; or a manton de 
Manilla, which is a silk mantle, shawl or robe, 

94 



MANTILLAS 

studded with an embroidery of roses and tassels, 
but it has to be worn with an air. It is flung in 
a series of folds across arms and shoulder, then 
it is drawn together tightly, the hands are placed 
akimbo, the dainty croup is braced outward, and 
below, there is a clatter of wooden heels ; I tell 
you, to wear the manton properly demands great 
skill as a dancer. 

What struck me was that Spanish women have 
contrived to preserve two great feminine privi- 
leges : servitude and homage. The Spanish 
woman is guarded like a treasure, after curfew 
you will not meet a girl in the streets, and I have 
even seen street- walkers accompanied by duefias, 
evidently to protect their honour. I have heard 
that every male member of a family, from the 
remotest great-uncle down to the grandson, has 
the right and the duty to watch, with sword in 
hand, so to speak, over the maidenly honour of 
his sisters, female cousins and other relatives. 
No doubt there is just a little of the spirit of the 
harem in this ; but at the same time it shows a 
great respect for the particular dignity of woman. 
While man prides himself on his worth as a 
cavalier and protector, to woman is vouchsafed 
the renown and prestige of a guarded treasure ; 
whereby both sides, as far as honour is concerned, 
get their fair share. 

But, really, what pleasant folk they are : youths 
in Andalusian broad-brimmed hats, ladies in 
mantillas, girls with a nosegay behind their ears 

95 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




96 



MANTILLAS 

and dark optics beneath drooping eyelids ; It is 
good to see how light-footedly they bear them- 
selves, with the strutting gait of pigeons, how they 
flirt, and with what passion and seemliness their 
eternal wooings are fraught ! And life itself here 
is sonorous, yet without any uproar ; in the whole 
of Spain I did not hear a single quarrel or a cross 
word, possibly because a quarrel would mean the 
use of a knife ; don't take it amiss if I refrain 
from telling you which of these two methods 
shows a higher sense of decorum. 



97 



Triana 

TRIANA is the gipsy and working-class 
quarter of Seville on the other side of the 
Guadalquivir ; besides this, Triana is a special 
kind of dance, as well as a ditty of its own kind, 
just as Granadinas are typical songs of Granada, 




Murcianas of Murcia, Cartageneras of Cartagena 
and Malaguenas of Malaga. Just imagine Brixton 
having its own sort of dance and Golders Green 
its national poetry ; or Birmingham having an 
entirely different musical folk-lore from Ipswich, 
and Winchester, let us say, being distinguished 



TRIANA 

by a particularly passionate and eccentric dance. 
I am not aware that Winchester has gone to such 
lengths yet. 

Of course, I trotted off to have a look at the 
gipsies of Triana ; it was Sunday evening, and 
I expected to find Gitanas 
dancing there at every 
street-corner to the sound 
of the tambourine ; I 
expected too that they 
would drag me off to their 
camp and that terrible 
things would befall me ; 
still, I resigned myself to 
my fate, and off I went 
to Triana. Nothing what- 
ever happened ; not that 
there was any lack of 
gipsies, male and female, 
there ; the place swarms 
with them, but there is 
no camp. There are only 
some tiny cottages with 
clean patios, with a regular 
gipsyish abundance of 
children, mothers suckling 
their babies, almond-eyed girls with a red flower 
in their blue-black hair, slender gipsy-lads with 
a rose between their teeth, a peaceable Sunday 
crowd taking its ease on its doorsteps, I, too, 
took my ease among them and hurled almond- 

99 




LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

eyed glances at the girls there. I can testify that 
most of them are of pure, handsome Indian type, 
with their eyes just a trifle aslant ? with olive- 
coloured skin and fine teeth ; moreover, . the 
movement of their croup is even more supple 
than that of the girls in Seville. That must be 
enough for you ; it was enough for me in that 
melting night at Triana. 

And because I was satisfied with little, the local 
deity of Triana rewarded me with a full-blown 
romeria. Suddenly, in the distance a clatter of 
castanets became audible, and through the narrow 
street of Triana glided a high car, dragged by oxen 
and festooned with wreaths and an abundance 
of tulle curtains, canopies, trimmings, flounces, 
drapery, veils and all sorts of other fallals, and 
the nice white body of the car was full up inside 
with girls who were clicking the castanuelas and 
singing at the top of their voices, as people do 
sing in Spain. I solemnly assure you that this 
garnished car, illuminated with a red fancy 
lantern, had the strange voluptuous aspect of a 
marriage-bed filled with girls. Each one in turn 
obliged with a loud seguidilla, while the rest kept 
time with their clattering castanets, clapped their 
hands and made shrill noises. And round the 
next corner a similar car was gliding along with 
a load of bedizened, shouting and clattering girls. 
And then there was a carriage drawn by a team 
of five donkeys and mules, driven by caballeros 
in Andalusian sombreros. And there were other 

IOO 



TRIANA 



caballeros on prancing horses. I asked the by- 
standers what this meant, and they said that it 
was the vuelta de la romeria^ sabe ? I must 

explain that a romeria is a pilgrimage to some 




sacred spot in the vicinity, to which the populace 
of Seville, especially the populace of both sexes, 
goes on foot and in conveyances ; and on the 
girls' petticoats there are broad flounces or what- 



101 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

ever they're called, and they cackle like a cartload 
of sparrows. 

And when, amid the clatter of castanets, the 
merry romeria had disappeared in the street of 
Triana, the regional secret of the castanuelas was 
revealed to me : they recall the song of the 
nightingale, the chirrup of crickets and the clatter 
of donkeys' hoofs on the cobbles, all in one. 



IO2 



Corrida 

BY chance, while I am writing this, the cat 
has climbed on to my lap and is purring 
away for all she is worth. Now I must admit 
that, although the animal is really in my way and 
won't take no for an answer, I somehow couldn't 
bring it over myself to kill her with a spear or an 
espada, whether on foot or on horseback. So 
you mustn't think that I'm a bloodthirsty or 
brutal person, although I witnessed the defeat 
of six bulls, and didn't go away until it was the 
turn of the seventh one, and even then not on 
moral grounds, but rather because it had begun 
to bore me. For one thing, the corrida was dull ; 
my opinion is that those bulls were too tough. 

I may say that during the bull-fights I had 
very mixed feelings ; there were amazing moments 
which I shall never forget, and painful junctures 
when I wished that the earth would swallow me 
up . The finest sight of all is , of course , the solemn 
entry of the toreadors into the arena ; what you 
ought to see is the yellow sand beneath the blue 
sky, the circular plaza de toros, packed with 
people ; on top of that the trumpets begin to 
blare, and the embroidered alguacilillos ride 
into the arena ; after them, in showy jackets and 

103 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

gold-bespangled cloaks, cocked hats and silk 
knickers , the matadores, espadas, banderilleros 
and picadores on their mares and the chulos 
and the teams of mules, four-in-hand, festooned 
with bells ; and they all bear themselves so grandly 
and yet so buoyantly that no opera chorus on earth 
can hold a candle to them. 

But that day there was something special on 
the programme : a " f rente a rente " contest, 




i.e. a forehead-to-forehead struggle between two 
matador soloists, who keep up the old tradition of 
the aristocratic corrida on horseback. One was 
Don Antonio Canero, a riding-master from Cor- 
doba, who was dressed in Andalusian style, and 
the other was Joao Branco Nuncio, a Portuguese 
rejoneador in blue rococo attire. First of all Don 
Antonio pranced into the arena on an Andalusian 
stallion, saluted the Infanta and the President as 
a cavalier should, and then, with horse and som- 
brero, brandished a salute to everybody ; next, the 
gate flew open, and in dashed a black bundle of 

104 



CORRIDA 

muscles, a bull with a chest and neck like a crag, 
stopped short, dazzled by the hot glare of the sun, 
lashed his tail, and in a cheerful sort of way darted 
after an enemy who, holding a thin lance, was 
waiting for him on horseback in the middle of the 
arena. I should like to describe what followed, 
step by step ; but where am I to get the words 




from, which would do justice to this dance of the 
bull, the horse and the rider ? A fighting bull 
is a fine sight when he stands there panting, as 
glossy as asphalt, a volcanic animal who until 
then has been provoked to the pitch of frenzy by 
being kept in a cage ; now he was standing 
still, his hoofs wedged in the ground, and with 
flaming eyes he searched for the opponent whom 

105 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

he should overwhelm. And then the horse 
pranced up to him with graceful, ceremonious 
movements, waggling Its flanks like a ballet-dancer 
and lifting Itself on Its sinews ; the pitch-black 
heap of muscularity began to ripple, and dashed 
forth In a terrific onslaught, his horns nearly 
touching the ground, with the momentum of a 
projectile and the unexpected elasticity of a chunk 
of indiarubber. I must confess that at that 
moment the palms of my hands went damp with 
fear, just as once before when I was climbing a 
mountain and my foot slipped. It was only just 
a moment ; two leaps, and the prancing horse, 
at a seemly gallop, lifting its feet high, was 
wheeling behind the bull's bony rump. The 
cheering which burst forth like a volley, checked 
the indiarubber tank in his headstrong dash ; It 
seemed to have annoyed the bull ; he swished his 
tail and dashed off at a gallop after the horse. 
But the bull's tactics are to attack point-blank ; 
the tactics of the horse and rider are to wheel In 
circles. The bull, with his horns well forward, 
rushed along with the intention of seizing and 
tossing his enemy with a terrific blow ; suddenly he 
came to a standstill with an air of amazement and 
looking rather stupid, when he found that he was 
faced with nothing but the empty arena. But 
his tactics are not only to gore but also to maul 
with a dreadful slantwise wrench ; even his 
Impetuous onslaught is sometimes delayed by a 
sudden side movement, straight towards the 

106 



CORRIDA 

horse ? s weak spots ; I really can't tell you whether 
It was the horse or the rider who first realized that 
this tricky move was coming, but I shouted and 
clapped with enormous relief when at the very 
next Instant the splendid horse was performing 
his pirouettes five yards further on. I rather fancy 
that the horse, too, puts all his heart and nerve 
Into this jousting, because every five minutes the 
rejoneador gallops off behind the barrier and comes 
back on a fresh horse. 

Now this dance Is so gorgeous and exciting that 
I almost forgot to mention that those who take 
part in It are out to kill ; or rather, I forgot it 
while I was still actually In the arena. I had 
noticed, of course, that more than once during an 
onrush the rejoneador propped himself up with 
his lance against the bull's neck, but the bull 
merely shook himself and galloped on ; it looked 
as if they were just playing. The second lance 
lodged in his neck and stuck there quivering, just 
like a penholder when the point of the nib has got 
fixed in the floor. The bull tried desperately 
to shake away the thing that had bitten Its way 
into his throat ; he jerked his head to and fro, 
he stood up on his hind-legs ; but the spike was 
firmly fixed in that solid mass of muscle. There 
stood the bull, scooping the sand with his feet, 
as if he wanted to dig himself In, and he bellowed 
with pain and anger ; froth trickled from his 
j ow l perhaps that is how a bull sheds tears. 
But now the horse with his opponent was able to 

107 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

raise itself briskly and nimbly in front of him. 
The wounded bull stopped roaring, began to 
snort, humped his back and made a frenzied on- 
slaught, I closed my eyes, because I expected 
that this would lead to a tangle of crushed and 
mauled legs and bodies in the sand of the arena. 
When I opened my eyes, the bull stood there with 




his head upraised ; the broken lance was twitching 
to and fro in his neck, while the horse was tripping 
along towards him like a ballet-girl ; only its 
drooping ears showed any sign of terror. What 
a stout heart this colt has ; what daring, what 
elegance in the aspect of this smart rider who 
manages his horse with his knees, while he plunges 
his eyes into those of the bull ; but what a magni- 
ficent and natural hero is this bull which, though 
he can weep, cannot retreat. The man masters 

108 



CORRIDA 

the horse, and ambition masters the man ; but all 
the bull wants is to be alone in the arena : who is 
putting himself between me and all the cows in 
the world ? See, now he is lowering his forehead, 
and once more he dashes forward full-tilt, with 
all his terrific bulk against this one opponent who 
trips along the arena ; he hurls himself like a 
rock, but there are moments when the sinews of 
his feet suddenly give way in a ghastly manner. 
Is he wavering ? No, that Is nothing ; full speed 
ahead ! Three cheers for the bull ! At this 
moment the third lance shot out like lightning. 
The bull staggered and then pulled himself 
together ; he was just about to brace his muscles 
for a new clash, when suddenly he lay down almost 
peacefully like a cow chewing the cud. The rider 
drove his horse round the resting warrior. Now 
the bull made a lunge as if he were about to jump 
up, but then he seemed to change his mind : well, 
perhaps, after all. 111 rest here a little. At this 
the rider wheeled round on his horse and galloped 
from the arena amid a drum-fire of clapping and 
shouting. The bull laidhis head on the ground as if 
resting only a moment, only an instant, whereupon 
his body relaxed and braced itself again, his legs 
gawkily stretched themselves out, and queerly, 
almost unnaturally projected from the black bulk 
of his body. Rigor mortis. From the opposite 
gate, a team of mules comes rushing In, with a 
tinkle of bells ; after a few seconds, amid a 
flicking of whips, they drag the burden of the 

I0 9 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 
dead bull at a gallop through the sand of the 



arena. 



Well, I have kept nothing from you as to how 
it strikes a spectator. Is it magnificent or cruel ? 
I do not know ; what I. saw was, if anything, most 
magnificent ; and when I look back at it now 




I cannot help wondering whether it would be 
better for that dauntless and noble specimen of a 
bull to end in the shambles by being banged on 
the head with a bludgeon ! Would that be more 
humane than for him to perish this way in a fight, 
as befits his mettlesome and pugnacious heart ? 



no 



CORRIDA 

Well, I don't know ; but it was a relief to me 
when I was able to look at the empty arena, yellow 
as fire, beneath the blue sky and surrounded by a 
noisy and excited crowd. 

Now the blue, showy Portuguese cantered into 
the circle, galloped round the arena, turned and 
saluted with his headgear; his mount moved 
even more trippingly, and it lifted its legs 
even more prettily, as prescribed by the riding 
academy. The black bull which burst through 
the gate was a bad-tempered, stubborn beast ; he 
stood there hunched up, with his horns prepared 
for a sally, but he would not let himself be enticed 
to make a dash ; it was only when the trembling 
horse trippingly marked time a few paces from 
him, that he rushed out as if propelled by a cata- 
pult. He was so sure of what he was about, that 
he almost turned a somersault on the spot where 
he expected the impact with the horse's chest ; 
but at the same instant that his black bulk started 
moving, the horse, turning round in response to 
the rider's knees, galloped off like an arrow from 
the bow-string, and fairly flew onwards, then 
turned while galloping at a headlong pace, and 
trotted back in gavotte time to the snorting bull. 
Never have I seen a rider so perfectly blended 
with his horse ; a rider who sat motionless in the 
saddle whether galloping or jumping, who could 
turn his horse in the fraction of a second, pull him 
up short, make him rear, get him, while at the 
gallop, to tackle a high jump, a long jump and 

in 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

other capers which I do not even know the names 
of ; and all the time he held the reins lightly in 
one hand as if they were a cobweb, while in the 
other lurked the murderous barb of the lance. 
But now just bear in mind that this feat of horse- 
manship was performed by a rococo dandy, face 
to face with the horns of an infuriated bull it 
is true that in this particular instance the sharp 
tops of the horns were made safer by means of 
rubber nobs ; bear in mind, I say, that he slipped 
away, jumped aside and attacked, darted off like 
an arrow and bounded back like a piece of india- 
rubber, grazed the bull with his spear while 
racing along at full speed, broke the shaft of his 
lance, and then defenceless, with the fuming 
beast full tilt after him, cantered to the barrier 
for a new lance. At the gallop he thrust three 
spears home, and then, taking no further notice 
of the bull, pranced out of the arena ; the bellow- 
ing animal still had to be attended to with a sword, 
and, to wind up with, the puntillero had to run 
a dagger through him. It was a revolting piece of 
butchery. 

The third bull was dealt with by two com- 
petitors. The Portuguese had the first spear ; 
while he was dallying in front of the bull's un- 
covered horns, the Andalusian was marking time 
on his colt, ready to join the fray at a moment's 
notice. But the third bull meant business ; 
truculent and astoundingly quick, he did not stop 
attacking from the moment when, amid clouds of 

112 



CORRIDA 






z$ 

VX) 



113 



H 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

dust and sand, he dashed Into the arena. Lunge 
followed lunge ; this bull was quicker than the 
horse, and chased the rider all over the arena. 
But suddenly he took It into his head to have a 
go at the expectant Andaluslan. The Andalusian 
turned his horse round and fled ; the bull stub- 
bornly followed him and caught him up. This 
Is the moment when the rejoneador, to protect 
himself and his horse, lets fly with his spear to 
stop the bull's little game ; but, in this case, the 
first spear belonged to the Portuguese. The 
Andaluslan lowered his outstretched spear, then, 
with heaven alone knows what effort of strength, 
dragged the horse aside, and scurried away amid 
tremendous cheering and shouting ; for the 
Spaniards appreciate a feat like that. The Portu- 
guese took charge of his bull and led It forward 
at a gallop ; while racing along he took aim with 
his lance, but the bull just jerked his head, and the 
spear flew a long way off into the sand. It was 
now the Spaniard's turn ; he took charge of the 
bull and tried to tire him out by letting himself 
be chased all over the arena. Meanwhile, Don 
Joao came back with a fresh horse, and looked 
on. This bull seemed to have a strategy of his 
own ; he hounded the Andalusian to the barrier, 
attacking his left flank. Suddenly the audience 
rose up in their excitement ; the bull had now 
caught up the rider on his uncovered left flank ; 
at this, the blue rococo dandy dashed out full 
tilt against the bull, the horse reared and jumped 

114 



CORRIDA 

aside, the bull jerked his head towards his new 
opponent who now flinched back ; but at that 

instant the Andalusian had already twisted his 
horse round and thrust his lance into the bull's 
neck, like a knife into a lump of butter. Where- 
upon the crowd stood up and cheered; and I, 
who never, not even in books, can find anything 
attractive about toying with death, for death is 




neither a joke nor a spectacle I had a lump in 
my throat ; of course, this was the result of horror, 
but of admiration as well. For the first time in 
my life I beheld chivalry, in accordance with the 
formula : with arms in hand, face to face with 
death, risking life for the honour of the thing. 
Reader, I cannot help myself : there is something 
in it ; something great and splendid. But not 
even the third spear finished off this astounding 

115 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

bull ; again a man had to come rushing up with a 
dagger and the crowd swarmed over the arena, 
which lay there clean and yellow amid the blue 
Sevillan sabbath. 



116 



Lidia Ordinaria 

THE second part of the corrida was a fight 
on ordinary lines, which is more dramatic, 
but also more distressing. I should not like to 
judge all bull-fights on the strength of that one, 
because it was an unlucky day. The very first 
bull, when the banderillas reached him, went mad 
and made a stubborn attack ; but the shouting 
crowd did not want him to get tired out at the 
very start ; so there was a blare of trumpets, 
the arena was emptied, and Palmefio, the gold- 
bespangled espada, went to pink the bull. But 
the animal was still too quick ; at the first onset 
he gored Palmefio in the groin, tossed him in a 
semicircle over his head, and dashed up to his 
powerless body. I had previously seen an infuri- 
ated bull tearing and trampling on a cloak which 
had been cast aside. It was a moment when my 
heart really missed a beat. At this particular 
instant a torero arrived on the scene with a cloak 
and hurled himself straight at the horns of the 
bull, whose eyes he covered with the mantilla ; 
he then made the attacking bull follow him. 
Meanwhile two chulos lifted up the hapless 
Palmefio and carried the handsome, unconscious 
fellow off at a canter. " Pronostico reservado " 

117 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

was the report which the next day's papers 
published about his injuries. 

Now if I had left immediately after this incident, 
I should have been haunted by the memory of 
one of the most impressive sights I have ever 
witnessed : a chulo, whose name was not even 
mentioned in the papers, exposed his stomach to 
the bull's horns, to get him away from the wounded 




matador ; without hesitation he diverted the 
madly attacking bull towards himself, and at the 
last instant just managed to leap out of his way ; 
another torero had already arrived, and with a 
cloak was attracting the bull towards him, so that 
the first man could wipe the sweat from his fore- 
head with a gilt-diapered sleeve. Then the two 
ornamented men withdrew, and a new espada, 
sword in hand, took the place of the crack per- 
former who had been wounded. 

118 



LIDIA ORDINARIA 

The matador sobresallente was a man with a 
long, dismal face, and was evidently no favourite. 

He proceeded to take charge of the bull, who was 
what might be called a bad hat. From this 
moment onward the corrida degenerated into a 
shocking display of butchery, when the frenzied 
crowd by their shouting and whistling fairly 
hurled the unpopular espada right at the horns 
of the savage animal ; and with clenched teeth. 




as if death was in store for him, the man went 
too, and with an uncertain hand pinked the bull. 
The bull dragged away the sword which had got 
fixed in the wound, where it was jerking to and 
fro. A fresh shout of disapproval. The toreros 
ran up to keep the bull busy with their cloaks. 
The mob hounded them on with fierce shouts : 
it was eager for the bull to die a chivalrous death, 
come what may. The pale matador set out once 
again to slay with sword and cudgel, in accordance 
with the rules of the game ; but the bull then 

119 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN /" 

would not budge an Inch, and stood still with 
upraised head, his neck bristling with banderillas, 
and garbed, so to speak, with a mantle of blood. 
The espada, with the point of his sword, made 



b0^o0^^oOOOo^o^o^^o^J>o 
^0 S t nOOOOOOOO Ov o^L c C C ^ 

o3r>0&V^n^&VOVon^J:eou~ Cu c 







him lower his head so that he could pierce his 
shoulder, but the bull stood there mooing like 
a cow. The toreros flung cloaks over the ban- 
derillas embedded in his neck, thinking that the 
fresh pangs of pain would goad him out of his 



120 



LIBIA ORDINARIA 

glum obstinacy ; but the pain made the bull 
bellow and pass water, and then he scraped his 
feet, as if he wanted to hide himself in the ground. 
At last the matador got him to lower his head to 
the ground, and pinked the motionless animal ; but 
not even this wound finished him off ; the pun- 
tillero also had to fling himself like a weasel upon 
the bull's neck, and ran him through with a 
dagger. Amid the frantic laughter and outcries 
of twenty thousand people the lanky matador, all 
glittering with gold, departed with a small, 
shaggy tuft of black hair in the nape of his neck, 
as tradition enjoins ; his sunken eyes were fixed 
on the ground. Nobody shook his hand when 
he passed the barrier ; and this luckless man had 
to tackle three more bulls. 

And once again the corrida unfolds itself in 
all its dazzling beauty and horror, like a haunting 
dream. Once again the toreros flaunt their 
gilded mantlets and jackets, the gold-clad pica- 
dores enter on wretched, blindfold nags, and take 
up their positions where they await the bull, who, 
in the meanwhile, is kept busy by the toreros 
with their cloaks, their capering and dodging. 
The toreros egg him on to meet the picador, 
who stretches out his long pike, while his blind- 
fold nag shivers with fright and would like to 
rear, if it could still manage such a feat. Now 
this particular bull was nothing loth, and with 
zest made a dash straight for the picador ; he 
bumped his neck against the lance, and it was 

121 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

a marvel that he did not fling the picador from 
the saddle ; but he only shook himself and started 
off again at a headlong gallop, caught the bony 
jade, rider and all, on his horns and hurled them 
on to the planks of the barrier. At the present 
day, by order of the dictator, the belly and chest 
of the picador's nag must be covered with a 
mattress, so that although the bull generally 
knocks it over and lays It out, he rarely rips its 
flank open, as used to happen ; all the same, 
the Interlude with the picadors is brutal and 
stupid ; you know, It simply doesn't seem decent 
to watch that decrepit gelding convulsively strug- 
gling, or to drag it along to make it submit to 
the bull's terrific onslaught, then to set it on its 
legs again and hound It once more against the 
bull's horns ; for with the blunt spear these two 
picadors have to inflict three deep wounds on 
the bull, so that he may lose a little blood and 
be " castigado." The fight itself may be a fine 
spectacle ; but the terror, reader, the terror of 
beast and man alike, is an appalling and ignoble 
sight. And when horse, rider and spear are 
mingled In a regular welter, the toreros come 
leaping forward with their cloaks and take away 
the snorting bull, who always wins this first 
skirmish at the cost of an ugly wound between 
the shoulder-blades. 

Then the picadores trot off, the bull becomes 
infuriated by the red linings of the cloaks, and 
the banderillos come trotting into the arena. 

122 



LIDIA ORDINARIA 

They are, if anything, even more resplendent 
than the others, and in their hands they carry 
their javelins, or rather long wooden darts, 
decorated with paper frills and ribbons ; they 
trip along in front of the bull, call him names, 
wave their arms and rush towards him to try 




and induce him to make a blind, rampageous 
attack with lowered head and outstretched neck. 
At the instant when the bull rushes out, the 
banderillo raises himself on tiptoe, arches his back 
like a bow, and, taking aim with the banderillas 
in his hands raised on high, waits. I must say 
that there is something extremely fine about this 

123 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

easy, elegant posture of a man facing a raging 
beast. In the last fraction of the instant the two 
banderillas hurtle like lightning, the banderillero 
leaps aside and departs at a trot, while the bull 
jumps about in the queerest manner, trying to 
shake away the two darts which are waggling to 
and fro in his neck. After a while he gets another 
pair of beribboned banderillas fixed in him, and 
the nimble banderillero saves himself by jumping 
over the barrier. By this time the bull is bleeding 
profusely, his huge neck is drenched with regular 
honeycombs of blood ; with the banderillas stick- 
ing out of him he calls to mind the Heart of Our 
Lady of the Seven Sorrows. 

And once again the chulos came running up 
to provoke and, at the same time, to tire the bull 
with their cloaks ; for the bull must not be 
allowed to get sluggish. They waved the red 
lining in front of him ; the bull blindly rushed 
out against the ample surface presented by the 
cloak, and the torero just managed by a single 
step to avoid the horns. But this bull tried to 
amuse the crowd ; he rushed against the toreros 
in such brisk and aggressive style that they all 
jumped over the barrier with the agility of fleas. 
At this the bull just lashed his tail, with one leap 
bounded over the barrier after them, and chased 
them into the narrow passage between barrier 
and public. The whole staff connected with the 
corrida scuttled away into the arena to save 
itself ; the bull triumphantly trotted through the 

124 



LIDIA ORDINARIA 




LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

passage and returned to the arena, proudly 
swishing its tail ; and by making another rush 
it flung every living soul across the barrier. Now 
he was sole master of the arena and he showed 
that he realized it, too ; he seemed to be testily 




urging the whole amphitheatre to applaud him. 
Once more the chulos came running out to tease 
him a little. The crowd gave vent to a roar ; 
it wanted to fling the espada on to the animal 
in all its magnificent strength. The gold- 
bespangled espada with the sunken eyes and lips 
pressed tightly together stood in front of the 

126 



LIBIA ORDINARIA 

president's private box, a red muleta in his left 
hand and a drooping sword in his right ; he 
plainly did not care what happened ; he was 
waiting for the president to give a sign, but the 
president hesitated. The toreros was leaping 
round the bull who was chasing them away at 
the tips of his horns. The crowd rose up 




threateningly and yelled. The waiting espada 
lowered his head with its black tuft of hair at 
the back and the president nodded ; thereupon 
trumpet-blasts resounded, the arena was emptied 
in a trice, and the espada with sword upraised, 
with motionless countenance was promising the 
bull his death. Then alone, brandishing his 
muleta, he entered the arena to cope with the 

bull. 

127 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

This corrida was not a good one. The espada 
risked his life with a courage which was little 
short of desperate ; but the bull gave him no 
chance to score a hit, and chased him along over 
the sand, took his muleta away on his horns, and 
then harried the unprotected matador, who saved 
himself by getting across the barrier, but lost 
his sword in the process. At times this jousting 
of man and animal is superb ; the espada, with 
his muleta in front of him, tries to lure the animal 
on ; the bull makes a dash at the red rag, the 
man slips aside, and with his sunken eyes searches 
for a spot on the bulPs neck where he can fix 
his weapon. All this is the work of an Instant ; 
and then once again, an attack, a feint and a blow 
which misses its aim. This duel between bull 
and man is such a strain on the nerves that after 
a while you feel dazed. Several times the chulos 
ran out to relieve the espada, who was on his 
last legs, but with a yell the public drove them 
away ; thereupon the espada feebly shrugged his 
shoulders, and once more went for the bull. He 
squared up to him nicely, but his pinking was a 
failure. It was not until he was using his fifth 
sword that the bull succumbed ; it was an awful 
business ; when the espada left, he looked as 
if somebody had given him a sound thrashing, 
and the whole amphitheatre hissed him ; I felt 
more agonizingly sorry for him than for the bull 
who was breathing his last. 

The sixth bull was a huge, white creature, 
128 



LIDIA ORDINARIA 




129 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

weak on his legs and with no more fight in him 
than a cow ; they almost had to push him along 
before he made an unsteady rush towards the 
picador's nag. The toreros with their cloaks 
drew him along by the horns to make him put 
up some sort of opposition ; and the banderilleros 
jumped about in front of him like mad, waving 
their arms, calling him names and jeering at 
him, to egg him on to what turned out to be a 
half-hearted and ungainly attack. The crowd 
whooped with resentment ; they wanted the bull 
to fight, and the result of this was that worse 
torture was inflicted on the blood-stained, bellow- 
ing animal. I wanted to leave ; but the people 
were standing up, shaking their fists and making 
a racket ; there was no chance of getting through, 
and so I covered my eyes and waited for it to 
stop. When, after what seemed an infinitely long 
time I opened my eyes, the bull was still alive, 
staggering about on shaky legs. 

It was not until the seventh bull came on the 
scene that I managed to push my way out. As 
I rambled through the streets of Seville, I had 
a queer feeling of shame, but I really do not 
know whether my callousness or my weakness 
was the cause of it. There in the amphitheatre, 
at one particular moment, I had begun to protest 
that it was a brutal business ; next to me sat a 
Dutch engineer who had settled in Seville, and 
he was astonished at my protest. " This is my 
ninth corrida," he said to me, " but it was only 

130 



LIDIA ORDINARIA 

the first one which seemed brutal." " This was 
a bad corrida," a Spaniard informed me by way 
of soothing my feelings ; " but you ought to see 

what a good one is like." Perhaps ; but it is 
hardly likely that I shall ever see a more heart- 
rending figure than that lanky, gaudily-dressed 
fellow with the face of an ox-herd and woebegone. 






sunken eyes, whose shoulders were weighed 
down with the resentment of twenty thousand 
people. If I had known enough Spanish, I 
should have gone up to him and said : Juan, 
things will go wrong with us sometimes ; but 
bitter is the bread of man who depends upon 

the favour of the public. 

131 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

And I reflect on this : In Spain I never actually 
saw the whip used on a horse or a mule ; the 
dogs and cats in the streets are trustful and 
affectionate, which shows that they are well 
treated. The Spaniards are not cruel to animals. 
The corrida is a struggle between man and beast 
which, in its essentials, is as old as time ; it has 
all the beauty of a struggle, but its pangs as well. 
Perhaps the Spaniards can view this beauty and 
this struggle in so perfect a light that they do 
not even see the cruelty which accompanies it. 
It certainly offers plenty to feast the eyes on, 
plenty of superb feats of agility, plenty of danger 
and magnificent courage but another time I 
would keep away from a corrida. 

And here the voice of temptation in my heart 
adds : unless a champion espada were there . 



132 



Flamencos 



" means Flemish but curi- 
ously enough there is nothing at all Flemish 
about the flamenco ; it suggests rather something 
gipsy-like and Moorish, a mixture of the orient 
and a night-club in equal parts. Nobody could 
explain to me why it is called flamenco, but the 
northern Spaniards rather object to it precisely 
because of its oriental flavour. A flamenco is 
singing and dancing and strumming on guitars, 
a clapping of hands and a clattering of castanets 
and wooden heels, and on top of all that there 
is shouting. And the Flamencos are singers, 
dancers, ballerinas and guitar-players, who from 
midnight onwards perform their tricks in noc- 
turnal haunts. These popular songsters have 
such names as Cadiz Joe, Malaga Game-Leg, 
Valencia Snub-Nose or the Utrera Lad ; often 
they are gipsies and their fame extends beyond 
the frontiers of their province, according to their 
ability in sustaining trills. I really do not know 
how to set about explaining all this to you. Let's 
try it in alphabetical order : 

Aha : \ Ole ! j Joselito ! j Bueno, bueno ! 
Bailor : Most of the Andalusian dances are solo 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




134 



FLAMENCOS 

dances ; the guitars strum a jerky, tinkling 
prelude, the seated troop begin to bestir 
themselves, beat time with their feet, clap 
their hands, begin to rattle the castanets ; 
suddenly one of them rises, his arms fly up 
in the air and his legs begin to perform a 
frenzied dance with lots of stamping about 
it. Take a Highland fling, a cake-walk, a 




tango, a Cossack gopak, an Apache dance, 
a fit of frenzy, unconcealed lechery and other 
frantic movements, kindle them to a white 
heat, and begin to batter them with castanets, 
shouting all the while ; then the mixture 
would begin to twirl as the flamenco dance 
twirls, with impassioned pauses in melody 
and dance amid a deafening rhythmic clatter 
of the castanets. Unlike Northern dances, 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 
the Spanish dance occupies not only the feet, 
but the whole swaying body and especially 
the arms which are flung upward with a 
snapping of the fingers against the castanets, 
while the feet perform dancing movements, 
which involve much stamping and beating 
of the heels on the ground. You might 




almost say that the feet only provide an 
accompaniment to the dance, which occupies 
the flanks and arms, as well as the trunk 
braced in a curve and undulating amid the 
wild clatter of castanets and heels. The 
Spanish dance is a mysterious and, in effect, 
an orchestral interplay of the sharp, per- 
cussive rhythm of strings, castanets, tam- 
136 



FLAMENCOS 

bourines and heels, with the supple flowing 
curve of the body as It dances. The music 
and all its appurtenances, including the 
shouting and clapping of hands, sets a 
whirling tempo which is boisterously in- 
creased or slackened like the beating of the 
heart ; but the body as it dances to the music 
plays a fluid solo violin melody, thrilling and 
passionate, a melody which exults, allures 
and laments, stormily swept along by the 
throbbing rhythm of the uproar accompany- 
ing the dance. 

Brindar : Whereupon the guitars crash forth an 
ear-splitting note fit to break the strings in 
two, the onlookers begin to shout, and hand 
the dancer their glasses to drink a toast 
from. 

Cantor : The cantos flamencos are sung in this 
way : the singer, whose name is Nino de 
Utrera or something of that sort, sits down 
on a chair among the guitar-players, who 
plunge Into a jangling overture interspersed 
with pizzicato swirlings, pauses and breaks ; 
and to this the singer begins to add his 
warblings like a canary, with eyes half- 
closed, head thrown back and hands resting 
on his knees. Yes, he screeches like a bird ; 
he unsheathes his voice in a long, full- 
throated yell, which gets louder and louder, 
and is appallingly intense and protracted, as 
if, for a bet, he was trying to find out how 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




138 



FLAMENCOS 

long he could keep It up with one breath ; 
suddenly this outstretched voice begins to 
quaver in a long trill, a protracted and 
piercing coloratura, which indulges in a tune 
of its own, performs a fluttering ripple , 
starts off on a queer, graceful meander, and 
suddenly sinks and dies away as the guitars 
chime in with a brisk strumming. And with 
their strains Is joined and mingled this naked, 
shrill and rhetorical voice, bewailing Its dis- 
tress or whatever it Is, in a passionate recita- 
tive, uncoiling sluggish and drunken from 
the abrupt rhythm of the guitars, and with 
one gasp swerving into that long, billowy 
vocal arabesque which dies away amid the 
clattering of the guitars. It is just like a 
shiny and flexible blade describing in the 
air luminous ripples and figures of eight ; 
It Is also like the call of the muezzin and the 
enraptured strains of a canary chirping on 
its perch ; it Is the dirge of the wilderness 
and, at the same time, a specimen of pro- 
digious professional virtuosity ; It contains 
a great deal of natural gusto, of gipsyish 
hocus-pocus, a certain amount of Moorish 
artifice and untrammelled candour. It has 
nothing In common with the honeyed voices 
and the cooing of the Venetian gondoliers 
and the Neapolitan tricksters ; In Spain 
they shout at the top of their voices, harshly 
and frantically. The songs are generally 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

filled with the woes of love, with taunts, 
jealousy and revenge ; they are a kind of 
epigram in one quatrain, set to music and 
prolonged by the wave of a slowly uncoiling, 
lingering trill. That is how they sing the 




seguidillas, as well as the malaguefias, grana- 
dinas, tarantas, soleares, vidalitas, bulerias 
and other types of song, which differ from 
each other more in their contents than their 
form ; in fact, even the saetas, which are 
sung at Seville in the processions during the 
140 



FLAMENCOS 

Holy Week, have the same wild and passion- 
ate flamenco style as the amorous seguidilla. 
Castanuelas : These are not only musical instru- 
ments which produce rattlings and drum- 
beats, trills, cooings and warblings merely 
to keep up a rhythmic rattling is very diffi- 




cult, as I know by experience but also, and 
particularly, dance instruments which make 
the twirl of the dance pass into the fingers 
and, just like a kettle-drum, raise the arms 
in a sweeping curve above the head into that 
splendid fundamental gesture of Spanish 
dances. The actual sound of the castafluelas 
141 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

recalls darkest Africa with its frantic hanker- 
ing after the rhythm of the drum-beat. 
When, during one of those whirlwind dances, 
the ear-splitting clatter of the castanets is 
heard amid piercing, provocative shouts and 
a rhythmical clapping of hands, then, dear 
reader, there is such a thrilling uproar, that 
it almost made me leap up and begin to 
caper riotously ; so violent is its effect upon 
feet and head. 

Children : In the streets of Seville they dance a 
winsome measure, with one hand above the 
head and the other akimbo, the frock lifted 
for greater ease of movement ; a disdainful 
dance, with haughty shrugging gestures, and 
also a seemly dance. Little girls dancing in 
groups, miniature, doll-like figures of bal- 
lerinas, stamp their tiny heels and imitate the 
sultry and aggressive dance of the grown-up 
performers. 

Erotic elements : Spanish dances cover the whole 
range of the erotic emotions, from amorous 
dalliance to orgasm ; but always, even in the 
most dignified quadrille, the erotic element 
is a trifle provocative ; it is not of that type 
which is displayed in the tango, but it excites, 
recoils and entices, challenges, threatens and 
slightly mocks. These are diabolical, ama- 
tory dances ; but they never lack a metallic 
mainspring of pride. 

Fandango ; This is danced in a dress with a 

142 



FLAMENCOS 

lengthy train ; to whirl round while wearing 
such a train, to kick it aside gracefully, to 
twirl like a top and stamp the heels all 
this demands consummate skill and is a fine 
sight ; for this dance spurts up miraculously 
from a froth of flounces and lace petticoats. 




Gipsy-girls : Most of them are from Triana ; for 
dancing they wear a long smock-like dress, 
which in olden times they used to lay aside ; 
and what they dance is in its essentials the 
cancan, the legs straddled and body bent 
back as far as the ground. The music 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




144 



FLAMENCOS 

lashes the dancer on more and more fever- 
ishly, the protruding belly whirls more and 
more violently, navel and hips rotate, the 
hands writhe snakily, the heels are stamped 
defiantly, the body bends forward, as if it 
were struggling in the hands of a ruffian, 
a screech, and the gipsy-girl is sinking to 
the ground as if laid low by a spasm of bliss. 
It is a wild dance, boisterous and convulsive ; 
in it, sex, launching an attack, creeps, thrusts 
and parries ; the phallic cult of some formid- 
able sect. 

Gitanos : They dance, in pairs, a sexual panto- 
mime of enticement and defiance, wooing 
and brutality ; they dance the traditional 
duet of man and woman, in which the woman 
is, if I may say so, a slut, and the man a 
ruffian who drags her along the ground. 
But if the gipsy dances by himself, he lays 
aside all pretext of pantomime ; then the 
thing becomes a sheer frenzy of movement, 
leapings and squattings, soaring gestures, 
and rabid stamping ; it is so genuine a dance 
that it expresses nothing else than liberated 
fire. 

Guitar : The sounds it makes are utterly different 
from what we here imagine them to be ; it 
rings metallically like a cutlass, it rattles 
defiantly and harshly ; it does not growl, 
nor does it croon, coo or rustle, but it twangs 
like a bow-string, rumbles like a kettle-drum, 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

clatters like sheet-Iron ; it is a manly and 
boisterous instrument, played by fellows who 
look like mountain-brigands and who pluck 
at the strings with curt and jerky movements 
of the fingers. 

Hija : I Ole ! ! hija ! 

Chiquita : \ Bueno ! \ bueno ! chiquita. 




Jota : The jota of Arragon is both a song and a 
dance ; a song with a heavy cadence, strange 
and harsh, which dashes on abruptly and 
then slackens, extremely Moorish, but with- 
out the flourishes which distinguish the 
flamenco ; each verse swerves suddenly into 
a protracted and drooping lamentation. And 
146 



FLAMENCOS 

the jota is also a very attractive dance, swift 
and unfettered, with a jaunty, galloping 
rhythm which surges forth from the rounded 
slackening plain-song. 

Muy : i Bueno, chica ! \ Otra, otra ! 

Ole : j Nina ! j Ea ! 

Palmoteo : Or hand-clapping. While one of the 
group dances, the others sit around and beat 
time by clapping their hands, as if unable 
to hold out against the rhythmic eddy which 
is poured along in the cascading of the guitars. 
And they bawl. And they stamp their feet. 
And the guitar-players rock themselves to and 
fro on the chairs, stamp their feet and bawl. 
And on top of all this the castanets. 

Rondalla : This is a fat-bellied mandoline of 
Arragon which produces a metallic and 
melodious clatter, and harmonizes with the 
tune of the iotas. 

U : The U is a song of Valencia, the ecstatic 
scream of a singer amid the blare of trumpets 
and the feverish whirling of castanets ; never 
have I heard such a fervid singing as this 
long and appallingly tense yell of the Moors. 

Zapatear : Or to stamp with a rhythmic gusto. 



147 



Bodega 

PAIN, like every old and worthy country, keeps 
its regional peculiarities ; there are thou- 
sand and one differences between Valencia and 
Asturias , Arr agon and Extremadura . Even nature 
has become associated with the localized patriotism 
which this involves, and produces a different sort 
of wine in each province. You must know that 
the wines of Castille promote valour, while the 
wines from the province of Granada arouse a 
grievous and frantic sorrow, and the wines of 
Andalusia induce feelings of delight and cheerful- 
ness ; the wines from Rioja refresh the mind, the 
Catalan wines endow the tongue with adroitness, 
and the wines of Valencia sink to the heart. 

You must know, too, that the sherry which is 
drunk on the spot where it is made, does not 
resemble the sweetened sherry which we drink ; 
it is light in colour, pungently flavoured with a 
bitterish tartness, soft as oil, but heady all the 
same, for it is a sea-coast wine. Brown Malaga 
is thick and sticky, like fragrant honey, in which a 
fiery sting is hidden. And then there is a goodly 
wine called Manzanilla of San Lucar ; as its name 
shows, it is a young and exuberant wine, worldly 
and jovial ; when you have quaffed your fill of 

148 



BODEGA 



Manzanilla, you float along buoyantly as a skiff 
in a good wind. 
You must know also that each province has 




different sorts of fish and different sorts of cheese, 
as well as different sorts of sausage and saveloy, 
beans and melons, olives and grapes, sweetmeats 

149 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




150 



BODEGA 

and other local gifts of God. That is why the 
old and trustworthy authors assert that it is 
instructive to travel ; and every traveller whose 
aim it is to improve his mind in distant lands will 
assure you how precious and essential a thing 
good victuals are. The kings of Asturias are 
no more, but the smoked cheese of Asturias still 
survives ; the palmy days of Aranjuez are a thing 
of the past, but the strawberries of Aranjuez enjoy 
their historic renown to this very day. Do not 
be gluttons or finicky feeders ; let your meals be a 
homage to the gods of time and place. I should 
like to eat caviare in Russia and English bacon in 
England; but, alas, in England I was- given 
caviare to eat, and English bacon in the land of 
Spain. Patriots of all countries, a conspiracy is 
being hatched against us ; neither international 
finance nor the Fourth Internationale is such a 
menace to us as the International Hotel-Keeper. 
I implore you, caballeros, let us fight against his 
wiles, uttering sundry sacred and ancient war- 
cries, such as Chorizo, Kalbshaxen, A la lanterne, 
Macaroni, Porridge, Camembert, Pereat, Man- 
zanilla and many others, according to where we 
are and how pugnacious we feel. 



151 



Carabela 

IT is anchored on the Guadalquivir near that 
Torre del Oro, where the Spanish ships used 
to unload Peruvian gold ; and it Is said to be an 
exact model, to the last plank and rope, of the 
carabela Santa Maria on which Christopher 
Columbus discovered America. I went to have 
a look at it in the hope that, as a result, something 
would occur to me on the subject of Christopher 
Columbus ; I went right through it, from the 
lower deck to the top ; I lay down on the bed in 
the cabin of Columbus, and as a souvenir I took 
a number of La Vanguardia which was lying on 
the table there, apparently another relic of 
Columbus ; I meddled with the falconetas or 
culebrinas or whatever they call those old cannons, 
during which process I nearly broke my leg with 
an iron bullet, for they were loaded ; but I dis- 
covered nothing except my own astonishment 
at finding the famous ship so small. I doubt 
whether the Port of London authority would 
allow it to be used for passenger traffic as far as 
Tilbury. 

But up on deck I remembered that behind me 
was the Ibero-American Exhibition ; and when 
it was closed, its existence would be perpetuated 

15* 



CARABELA 

by a large Ibero-American University which, so 
we Sevillanos hope, will be attended by young 
caballeros from Mexico and Guatemala, Argentine 
and Peru and Chile. At that < moment I felt 
terribly anxious to be a Spanish patriot and to 
exult aloud, thus : Hombres, just consider that 
yonder, on the other side of the ocean, there are 
millions and millions of people who speak a 




language in accordance with the dictionary of the 

Madrid Academy. Now although the countries 
there are as plentiful as blackberries, there is only 
one nation, and if we were to set about the job 
properly, there would be only one civilization, 
too, i sabe ? I imagine, caballeros, what would 
happen if all people who kept to the diction- 
ary of the Madrid Academy were to throw 
in their lot together; this would immediately 
produce something which not even the League 
of Nations has managed to bring about a 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

Buroamerica, an Inter-continental alliance of the 
white race. Why, this would be like a new dis- 
covery of America. Just fancy how we Iberians 
would open the eyes of those Great Powers with 
their everlasting disputes about tonnage and 
calibre ! Amigos, every estranjero, who trots 
into our country by way of Irtin or Portbu, only 
has to glance round and he at once notices that 
of old we Spaniards showed signs of greatness 
and supremacy ; where, by all that's holy, has it 
gone to ? In the name of Goya and Cervantes, 
let us get back to it ! 

That and in like manner is how I would speak 
to them ; for when you are standing on a vessel 
which recalls the carabela of Columbus, you feel 
a sort of compulsion to discover America. I did 
not discover America, but in this country I dis- 
covered something closer to us ; I think it is called 
nationalism. What I mean is that this nation, 
more than any other not counting the English 
has succeeded in preserving its own peculiar mode 
of life ; from the women's mantillas to the music 
of Albeniz, from the household usages to the 
street traders, from the caballeros to the donkeys, 
it prefers its old Spanish manners to the veneer 
of international civilization. This may be due to 
the climate, or to the fact that the country is 
almost an island ; but first and foremost it is a 
question of character. Here local pride makes 
every caballero hold his head high ; the Gaditano 
glories in being a man of Cadiz, and the Madrileno 



CARABELA 



in being a man of Madrid ; the Asturian is proud 
to be a man of Asturia, and the Castillan is proud 




in general ; for each of these names has the renown 
of an escutcheon. In consequence of which, the 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

Sevillan, I hope, will never demean himself so 
far as to become a good international European ; 
for he would not become even a Madrileno. One 
of the deeper secrets of Spain is its provincialism, 
a peculiar virtue which, in the rest of Europe, is 
dying out ; a provincialism which is the joint 
product of nature, history and people. Spain has 
not yet ceased to be in close touch with nature, and 
has still not lost sight of Its history ; that is why 
It has managed to preserve itself to such an extent. 
And all that the rest of us can do is to observe, 
with a certain amount of wonder, how fine a 
thing it is to be a nation. 



156 



Palmas y Naranjos 

HAVING travelled through the La Mancha 
region in a night as dark as a gipsy, I cannot 
say whether it really contains giants or whether 
they are merely wind-mills ; but on the other 
hand I can enumerate to you quite a lot of things 
which are to be found in the provinces of Murcia 
and Valencia, to wit and particularly : yellow or 
red rocks, white crags of limestone and blue hills 
as a background ; on each rock, crag and hill the 
ruins of a Moorish fortress or a Christian strong- 
hold or at least a hermitage, a chapel or a belfry ; 
the huge brown remains of Montesa, the citadel 
of Jativa bristling with towers and battlements, 
all kinds of fortifications, fortresses and watch- 
towers ; the stronghold of Puig and the ramparts 
of Nules, the ruins of Sagunto, a whole acropolis 
on a rocky summit, and the four-square castle of 
Benicarlo ; 

brown and red wastes of rocky hill-sides, over- 
grown with tufts of esparto, with hazel-bushes, 
sprays of thyme, rosemary, tenkria and sage ; arid 
slopes parched like pottery just removed from the 
oven and still hot ; and right below them 

olive gardens, grey and silvery, similar to our 
willows, with their gnarled and twisted trunks 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




.58 



PALMAS Y NARANJOS 

which resemble mandragoras, goblins or some- 
thing else remotely human ; and among the olives 
a parched and stony puebla with a small church 

like a stronghold, with squat houses and some 
sort of large ruins above ; 




a 



then, groves of fig-trees, large-leaved and un- 
kempt ; dense and luxuriant algarobias, which 
produce pods of the carob-bean, otherwise known 
as St. John's bread ; and date-palms, rows up- 
on rows of palms thrusting their triumphant 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

tops aloft ; palm-groves, townships steeped in 
palms, glistening faience cupolas and minarets 
amid palms and banana-trees, and above this 
another, stronghold of some sort or other ; 

irrigated huertas, rice-fields, mulberry planta- 
tions, stretches of vineyards and acres of orange- 
trees, small and round with tough, glossy leaves 




and oranges arraying themselves in golden tints, 
and lemon-trees which are larger and more like 
pear-trees ; a land flowing with milk and honey, 
if ever I saw one, tierras de regadio where the 
fertilizing moisture still flows through gutters and 
runnels which were laid down by Roman farmers 
and Moorish architects ; and above this golden 
land, on the blue hills, bastions, turrets and 
notched walls of Moorish strongholds ; 

Valencia, with its blue and gold azulejo cupolas, 
160 



PALMAS Y NARANJOS 



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161 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

its brown-faced people and golden air, in which 
sea-air and the smell of fish is mingled with the 
fragrance of oranges and syrup ; 

sea, sea, sea luminous, flaming, opalescent and 
crinkled, foaming at the foot of brown rocks, 
licking the sandy beaches, and azure sea, sea whose 
range baffles the eye ; malarial lagoons, inlets 







amid the rocks, the wing-shaped sail of a fishing 
boat on the horizon ; 

alcornoques, groves of cork-oaks with leaves 
which are almost black, leathery and coiled into 
the shape of pointed paper-bags ; small pine- 
groves on the salt sandy flats ; on the mountains 
strongholds and hermitages ; 

162 



PALMAS Y NARANJOS 

so the sea on the right, and on the left, moun- 
tains where must I look so as to leave nothing 
out ? oh, to float on the sea or to be a hermit 
on yonder mountains, 

to sail out on a fishing cruise, to tread grapes 
or to press out oil, ha, you scarlet rocks, nowhere 
are rocks so crimson, 

behold, Oropesa, a township clinging to a rock, 
doubtless it looked exactly the same a thousand 
years ago, although I cannot tell what nation 
dwelt there then ; 

whenever you ride through a tunnel, it is as If 
you had put a full stop and the beginning of a 
new chapter followed It, 

and yet you could not say at what point the 
country undergoes such a change, or in what the 
change consists ; suddenly it reminds you of 
something else. It is no longer Africa, but some- 
thing familiar to you ; It might be the Corniche 
at Marseilles or the Riviera di Levante ; once 
more it is Latin country, the warm and sparkling 
Mediterranean basin, and when you look at the 
map, you discover that It is called Cataluna. 



163 



Tibidabo 

npIBIDABO is a hill above Barcelona ; on the 
JL top there is a church, cafes and swings, and 
especially a view of the sea, the town and its 
surroundings ; the sea in question gleams with 
a steamy haze, the town emits an uncommonly 
delicate sparkle of white dwellings, and its 
surroundings are tinged with a green and pink 
lustre. 

Or from the Font del Lie 6 terrace, there is 
beauty for you, the shining town between the 
warm surge of the hills and the sea, a vista as 
stimulating as light wine. 

Or evening on the slope of Montjuich at the 
exhibition, when all the fountains, conduits and 
cascades, the frontages and turrets are set agleam 
with such an array of lights that you are at a loss 
to describe it, and all you can do is to look at it 
till your head begins to whirl. 

But these fabulous items are incomplete with- 
out Barcelona itself ; a rich city, as good as new, 
which rather flaunts its money, its industries, its 
new streets, shops and villas ; there are miles and 
miles of them, left and right, and in the middle, 
as if at the bottom of a pocket, the old town 
manages to wedge itself in around a few ancient 

164 



TIBIDABO 

and venerable objects, such as a cathedral, a town 
hall and a Diputacion, with its close and swarm- 
Ing streets, cut in two by the famous Rambla^ 
where the populace of Barcelona jostles 'under the 
plane-trees to buy flowers, to ogle the girls and 
to start revolutions. All in all, a brisk and 
pleasant city, blazoning forth its prosperity, rush- 
ing out to the surrounding hills, an ostentatious 
and flamboyant place, like its fanciful architect 




Gaudi, who so feverishly elevated his soul heaven- 
ward in the unfinished nave and the pine-cone 
turrets of that vast cathedral torso, Sagrada 
Familia, 

And the harbour, dirty and noisy like all 
harbours, an enclosed zone of nocturnal resorts, 
dancing halls and shows, filled at nightfall with 
the clatter and the racket of all their mechanical 

165 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

orchestras, blatant with coloured lights, gross 
and rampant with its queer mob of stevedores, 
seamen, riffraff, plump wenches, rowdies and 
harbour dregs, a brothel larger than Marseilles, 




a low haunt more dubious than Limehouse, a 
sink of iniquity where earth and sea shed their 
scum. 

And the working-class suburbs, where you see 
men with their clenched fists in their pockets, and 

166 



TIBIDABO 




167 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

rabid, defiant eyes ; let me tell you, this Is very 
different from the free and easy dwellers in 
Triana ; take a sniff, and you will discover that 
something is smouldering here. At nightfall 
shadows range along towards the centre of the 
town ; they wear espadrillas on their feet and red 
belts round their waists ; a cigarette clings to 
their lips and their caps are pulled down over 
their eyes. They are only shadows, but when 
you look round, they form quite a cluster. A 
cluster of staring, dogged eyes. 

And here, in the middle of the city, are people 
who refuse to be Spaniards ; and In the moun- 
tains round about, peasants who are not Spaniards. 
From the heights of TIbidabo It is a brilliant and 
prosperous city ; but as you get nearer and nearer 
to it, you seem to hear the sound of rapid panting 
between clenched teeth. 

Meanwhile, Barcelona overflows with lights and 
amuses itself hectically ; the theatres do not open 
till midnight, at two in the morning the dancing 
halls and other pleasure haunts are packed ; the 
silent and sullen clusters loiter on the ramblas and 
paseos, and suddenly, noisily disappear when an 
equally silent and sullen posse of mounted gen- 
darmes, with rifles ready in the saddle, come into 
view at the next corner. 



168 



Sardana 

BUT, Catalonians, I would rather you played 
your sardana to me, that shrill and forthright 
musical instrument, the sound of which combines 
the bleating of a goat with the whistling of a 

shawm real Mediterranean music. This is not 




the straggling yell of the Moors nor the dark 
passion of the guitars ; it is rural, uncouth and 
cheerful like this region itself. 

For here the country now resembles Provence ; 
thus, it is not as rocky as the rest of Spain, but 
as the Proven?al hills ; no palms grow there like 
those in Murcia, but the palms that grow there 
are like those on the Riviera. As you notice, the 
distinction is a subtle one, and is not easy to put 

169 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

into words ; it is in the air you breathe, it is in 

the people and their dwellings with the green 
shutters, but, above all, it just simply is. 

As regards the inhabitants of this region, they 
wear on their feet white woven slippers called 




alpargatas, which remind you of Roman sandals ; 
and here and there you come across red Phrygian 
caps (they are called barretinas or something of 
that sort). And many of them are blue-eyed and 
brown-haired, thickset and stocky ; somehow a 
touch of the north has got into everything here, 

170 



SARDANA 

the music, the taste of the wine, the people and 
the natural features. The majority of the trees 
are deciduous ; the first yellow leaf of a plane- 




tree which I saw was like a greeting from home. 
The people do not live in patios as they do yonder, 
but in the streets ; children and dogs and mothers, 

171 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

* 

topers and newspaper-readers, mules and cats, 
they all live on the doorstep and 'on the pavement ; 
perhaps that Is why in this country it is so easy 
for a mob to form and street-fights to start. 

But if I must say what surprised me most, it 
was the gendarmes in front of the royal castle ; 
for they wear white Catalan slippers on their feet 
and a top-hat on their heads. You see, a top- 
hat, slippers, and a rifle with fixed bayonet, is a 
peculiar and unusual combination ; but, after all, 
it graphically represents the character of the 
Catalan country, a rural and commercial area 
among the other kingdoms of Spain. 



172 



Pelota 

PELOTA Is a Basque game with a hard ball 
made of dogskin. From a distance it looks 
as if a shindy had just started and that the noise 
of shooting was being added to the wild uproar ; 
but when you get nearer, you discover that the 




uproar is not caused by the players or even by 
the onlookers but by the betting-touts, who rush 
about in front of the crowd and take bets on Blue 
or Red, these being the distinctive colours of the 
teams. From a dramatic point of view these 
betting-touts are the most interesting feature of 
the show ; for they yell like monkeys, leap 
about, wave their arms and indicate the bets on 
their outstretched fingers, the bets and winnings 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




*74 



PELOTA 

being flung to and fro between touts and onlookers 

In hollow pellets, which whizz past your nose like 
nuts shaken from a tree where a gang of apes 
are squatting. 

While this passionate betting-game is develop- 
ing, the pelota in the narrow sense of the word 
is being played lower down in front of the crowd. 
On each side there are two players with a sort 
of long wicker pod or trough, fastened to the 
right hand by means of a leather glove. Elola 
catches the flying ball in this pod, and wallop, 




he swipes it against the high wall which is known 
as the fronton. The ball bounces off with a crash, 
and whizzes back with the momentum of a pro- 
jectile ; bang, now Gabriel has got it in his pod, 
and shoots it against the wall. Houp-la, now 
Ugalde has collared it from the air into his pod, 
whirls the racket round, and flings the ball at 
the fronton like a bomb. And bang, now Teodoro 
has got it in his trough and whacks it against the 
wall with a thud ; now it is Elola's turn again 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

to catch It as it bounces off. That Is what It 
looks like In terms of a slow-motion film ; but 
in reality you see four white figures, each leaping 
in his line, and smack bang, smack bang, smack 
bang, the ball flies above them and remains 
almost invisible ; if the player misses it, If the 
ball bounces on the ground twice, or if some other 




mysterious slip is made, that ends the round and 
the other team scores one point ; the touts begin 
to wave their arms and with a terrific yell announce 
fresh bets. And so it goes on until sixty points 
or thereabouts have been scored. Then a fresh 
set of Rojos and Azules arrive, and they begin 
all over again, while the crowd is re-shuffled, 
as if they were so many roulette-players. 

As you see, It has all the attributes of a mono- 
tonous game, especially when we use such ele- 

176 



PELOTA 

mentary and common phrases as " catching the 
ball ?5 ; but in reality the process is not one of 
catching, but involves rather a species of magic. 
The pod, known as la cesta, is no more than a 
hand's breadth across, and the ball flies at about 




the same speed as a meteor ; apparently on a 
recent occasion it bounced off the wall and flew 
among the onlookers, whereupon all four players 
took to their heels, as they felt sure that the ball 
must have killed someone in the crowd. So to 
catch a ball like that is very much like catching 
in a spoon a bullet from a rifle ; and the pelota- 

177 



M 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

players catch every ball wherever It may hurtle, 
with the same dead certainty as that with which 
a swift catches flies. They just stretch out their 
arms, and they've got It. They just take a leap, 
and they've got it. Compared to pelota, tennis 
is like chasing flies with a fly-clapper. And on 
top of all that, they perform their tricks, the leaps 
and the somersaults, without any display or 
exertion 5 very much like a bird hunting gnats. 
There's a bang, the ball crashes against the wall, 




and the thing's done ; not a sign of the brawny 
strength with which it must have been hurled. 
That's the sort of game it is, queer and mono- 
tonous. 

This game is played only by the Basques and 
the men from the hills of Navarre ; the Basques, 
who have introduced to the world the beret 
(they call It botna) ; the Basques, who, as Professor 
Meillet informed me, are the original Inhabitants 
of the whole Mediterranean basin, and akin to 
certain tribes of the Caucasus. Their language 
is so complex that it has not yet been fully investi- 
gated ; and they make their music with a clarinet 

178 



PELOTA 

reed-pipe, called duhaina, accompanied by a 

small drum. They are one of the tiniest nations 




in Europe, perhaps they are what is left of the 
vanished people of Atlantis. It would be a 
crime if this dauntless remnant also vanished* 



Montserrat 

SEEN from a distance, it is a sturdy, impressive 
mountain which, from the waist upwards, 
overtops the other hills of Catalonia ; but the 
nearer you get to it, the more are you amazed, 
and you shake your head, till at last all you can 
do is to mutter : " Well, I'm hanged ! " and 
" I've never seen anything like that before." 
Which only goes to confirm the old experience 
that the things of this world are more remarkable 
at close quarters than from afar. 

For, you see, what from Barcelona looks like a 
compact range turns out at close quarters to be a 
mountain perched on columns ; in fact, it looks 
more like a specimen of ecclesiastical architecture 
than a mountain. Below, there is a plinth of red 
rock, from which rocky pillars tower upwards ; on 
top of them there is something resembling a gallery 
which supports a fresh row of huge columns ; and 
above them a third storey of this immense colon- 
nade hoists itself upwards to a height of more 
than six thousand feet. Well, I'm hanged ; I 
must say, I've never seen anything like that 
before. The higher the fine spiral path uncoils, 
the more it makes you hold your breath ; below, 
the steep precipice of Llobregat and above your 

180 



MONTSERRAT 



head the steep towers of Montserrat ; and between 

the two, as If it were on a projecting balcony, 
hangs a holy monastery and a cathedral and a 
garage for several hundred cars, motor-buses and 
charabancs, together with a hostel where you can 




lodge with the Benedictine monks in that monu- 
mental and bristling hermitage ; and in this 
monastery there is a library such as perhaps no 
other monastery contains, which ranges from old 
folios in wooden and pigskin bindings, to a whole 
shelf of books about cubism. 

But there is still the peak of the mountain, 
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LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

Sant Jeroni ; you are taken there by an absolutely 
vertical funicular railway, which makes you think 
of a sardine-tin being hauled along a rope to 
the top of a church-steeple ; but you take your 
seat in this tin, and try to look alert and adven- 
turous, as if you were not frightened out of your 
wits at the possibility of being hurled to kingdom 
come. And when you get to the top and pull 
yourself together, you do not know what you ought 
to look at first ; so I will draw up a list of things 
for you : 

1. The vegetation which, seen from below, 
looks like tufts of hair under the armpits of those 
huge upraised limbs, but at close quarters It 
proves to be a delightful crop of evergreen bar- 
berries and holly, box-tree and spindle-tree, rock- 
rose, myrtle and laurel and Mediterranean 
heather ; I'll be hanged if I've ever seen such 
a natural park as here on the mountain-top and 
among the crevices in these expanses of hard 
rubble which look as if they were moulded from 
flinty concrete. 

2. The towers and columns of the rocks of 
Montserrat, the naked, awe-inspiring steeps of 
the Evil Valley, which is supposed to have split 
apart on the day of Christ's crucifixion. There 
are a number of scientific theories as to what 
these rocks resemble ; according to some, they 
are like sentries, according to others, a procession 
of monks in cowls, or flutes, or roots of extracted 
teeth. I myself call heaven to witness that they 

182 



MONTSERRAT 



resemble upraised fingers clutched together as In 
prayer ; and so Montserrat prays with a thousand 




fingers, avows with lifted forefingers, blesses the 
pilgrims and makes a sign. My own belief Is 

that it was created and upraised above all other 

183 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




184 



MONTSERRAT " 

mountains for this special purpose,- and my 
belief is further, that it is now out of place, 'but 
I thought of this while sitting on the summit 
of Sant Jeroni, which forms the highest peak and, 
at the same time, the centre of this vast and quaint 
natural cathedral. 

3. And then there is the surrounding country, 
earth rippling, farther than the eye can reach, in 
green and pink heights : Cataluna, Navarra, 
Arragon ; the Pyrenees with sparkling glaciers ; 
white townships at the foot of the mountains ; 
queer, oval hills, so arranged as to look like 
ruffled tresses through which a huge comb has 
been passed. Or rather, they look as if they 
were still marked by the furrowed imprint of 
the fingers which created this land. From the 
summit of Montserrat you see the imprint of the 
divine thumbs which kneaded this warm, russet 
region with a special creative zest. 

Having beheld all this and marvelled thereat, 
the pilgrim set out on his homeward journey. 



185 



Vuelta 

THE homeward journey. I have to travel 
across four countries yet, but whatever I see 
now, absent-mindedly I let slip between my 
fingers like the beads of a rosary ; for now it is 




only the way back. A man who is returning 
home, squeezes himself into a corner of the 
railway-carriage, and half-closes his eyes ; enough, 

186 



VUELTA 

enough of this passlng-by and withdrawing ; 
enough of all these places which slip away almost 
as soon as they have beckoned. All he wants 
now is to be home again, like a post fixed into 
the ground ; to see around him, morning and 
evening, the same familiar things. Yes, but the 
world is such a large place ! 




Just look at the fellow and see what a fool he 
is ! There he sits in the corner like a bundle of 
misery, and he is annoyed because he did not 
see more of it. He hasn't seen Salamanca or 
Santiago ; he hasn't encountered the king of the 
gipsies, nor heard the sound of the Basque 
txistularis. He ought to see all and stretch out 

187 



LETTERS ^PROM SPAIN 

his hand towards everything, just as he patted 
that donkey at Toledo or stroked the trunk of the 
palm in the garden of the Alcazar. He ought at 
least to touch everything with his fingers. To 
pass the palm of his hand across the whole world. 
What a delight It is, dear reader, to see or to 
handle something which, till then, was unfamiliar 







i 



i 



to you. Each divergency in things and people 
widens the bounds of life, 

With gratitude and joy you have gleaned every- 
thing that differed from what you were accus- 
tomed to ; and whatever other pilgrims you saw, 
were willing to walk themselves off their feet to 
make sure of not missing anything special and 

188 



VURLTA 

picturesque and different from what they could 
see elsewhere ; for in us all there Is a love for the 
fullness and teeming of life. Now this fullness 
of life is brought about by nations ; of course, 
by history and environment as well, but the two 
are merged in nations. So if it ever occurred to 




J3-! 

us to let the affairs of this world be controlled by 
a love of life, we should have to say something 
of this sort (in all the languages of the world) : 

Caballeros, it is true of course, that people are 
people, all the world over, but what caused us 

travellers such a pleasant surprise was not so much 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 




190 



VUELTA 

the discovery that, for instance, the Sevillans are 
people, as the discovery that the Sevillans are 
Sevillans. We were delighted to find that the, 
Spaniards really are Spaniards ; the more Spanish 
they were, the more we liked them' and the more 
highly we thought of them. Bear in mind that 
we should think just as highly of the Chinese for 
the exciting reason that they are Chinese, of the 
Portuguese because they are Portuguese, and we 
do not understand a word they say. And so on. 
There are people who love the whole world as 
long as it is willing to have asphalt high-roads or 
to believe in one God or to close the bodegas and 
taverns. There are people who could love the 
world if only it would assume just their own single 
civilized aspect. But as we have not yet made 
much progress with love, let us try another way. 
It is far more delightful to be fond of the world 
because it has thousands of aspects and is different 
everywhere, and then to announce : Friends, as 
we are so glad to see each other, let us make a 
League of Nations ; but hang it, they must be 
Nations with all the proper trimmings, each one 
with different hair and a different language, well, 
its own customs and culture, and if need be, with 
all right, with its own God, too ; for every diver- 
gence deserves to be cherished, simply because it 
widens the bounds of life. Let us be united by 
everything that divides us ! 

And here, the man on his way home, lets his 
eyes nestle against the vine-clad hills of France, 

191 



LETTERS FROM SPAIN 

lets them fondle the hop-fields of Germany, and 
with feverish delight looks forward to seeing the 
tilled land and the apple-orchards beyond the last 
frontier. 



192 



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Presented to the Library by 



Kansas Gjtty S|ar 




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